Associations between the cortisol awakening response and patient-evaluated stress and mood instability in patients with bipolar disorder: an exploratory study

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Objective: The Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR) measured as the transient increase in cortisol levels following morning awakening appears to be a distinct feature of the HPA axis. Patients with bipolar disorder (BD) experience daily stress, mood instability (MI) and studies have shown disrupted HPA-axis dynamics. Aims: to evaluate (1) patient-evaluated stress against the CAR, (2) associations between the CAR and mood symptoms, and (3) the effect of smartphone-based treatment on the CAR. Methods: Patients with BD (n = 67) were randomized to the use of daily smartphone-based monitoring (the intervention group) or to the control group for six months. Clinically rated symptoms according to the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale 17-items (HDRS), the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS), patient-evaluated perceived stress using Cohen’s Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and salivary awakening cortisol samples used for measuring the CAR were collected at baseline, after three and six months. In the intervention group, smartphone-based data on stress and MI were rated daily during the entire study period. Results: Smartphone-based patient-evaluated stress (B: 134.14, 95% CI: 1.35; 266.92, p = 0.048) and MI (B: 430.23, 95% CI: 52.41; 808.04, p = 0.026) mapped onto increased CAR. No statistically significant associations between the CAR and patient-evaluated PSS or the HDRS and the YMRS, respectively were found. There was no statistically significant effect of smartphone-based treatment on the CAR. Conclusion: Our data, of preliminary character, found smartphone-based patient-evaluations of stress and mood instability as read outs that reflect CAR dynamics. Smartphone-supported clinical care did not in itself appear to disturb CAR dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalInternational Journal of Bipolar Disorders
Issue number1
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The MONARCA I trial was funded by the EU 7th 564 Frame Program, the Mental Health Services in the Capital Region of Denmark, the TRYG foundation, the Augustinus Foundation, the Geert Einar Joergensens foundation, and the A.P. Moeller and Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Moellers foundation for general purposes. The research team has no financial connection to any of the funders. The funding organizations had no role in the design and conduct of the study, collection, management, analysis, interpretation of the data, preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript, and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Bipolar disorder, Cortisol awakening response, Smartphone

ID: 281340056