Mansueto, G., Tosato, S., Brondino, N., Bonetto, C., Tomassi, S., Politi, P., Lasalvia, A., Fioravanti, G., Casale, S., De Santi, K., Bertani, M., Bellani, M., Bambilla, P., Ruggieri, M., GET UP GROUP, Faravelli, C. (2023) Childhood adversity, symptoms, and cortisol in first episode psychosis: a cross-sectional, secondary, observational analysis of a subsample of FEP patients 2023 – Nordic Journal of Psychiatry 77(5), 432-439


BackgroundAlthough it has been proposed that childhood adversities (CAs) may affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity and psychotic symptoms severity, these associations have not been fully confirmed in first-episode psychosis (FEP). This study explored the association between CA, cortisol and psychotic symptoms in FEP patients.


81 FEP patients were enrolled. CAs were evaluated by the Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse Questionnaire and a semi-structured interview. Psychotic symptoms were evaluated by the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale. Cortisol level was collected using saliva samples. ANCOVA and partial correlation analyses were run.


FEP patients with childhood abuse reported severe positive symptoms than those without CA. FEP patients with at least one CA had higher levels of cortisol awaking, cortisol at 12 a.m., and cortisol at 8 p.m. Morning cortisol levels were negatively correlated with the severity of negative symptoms and positively correlated with the severity of general psychopathology. Evening cortisol levels were positively correlated with severity of general psychopathology.


FEP patients with CAs, compared with those without CA, might report more severe positive symptoms and higher cortisol, even though these findings as prone to bias due to the small sample size, and should be seen in the larger perspective of conflicting evidence in the field.