Psychoneuroendocrinology and Clinical Psychology


  • Susanne Fischer
  • Ulrike Ehlert


Background: Hormones impact on cognition, emotions, and behaviour. Given that mental disorders are defined by abnormalities in these very same domains, clinical psychologists may benefit from learning more about alterations in endocrine systems, how they can contribute to symptoms commonly experienced by patients, and how such knowledge may be put to use in clinical practice.

Method: The aim of the present scientific update was to provide a brief overview of endocrine research relevant to the aetiology, diagnostics, and treatment of mental disorders, including some of the latest studies in this area.

Results: Hormones appear to be intrinsic to the development and maintenance of mental disorders. Oxytocin is involved in social cognition and behaviour and as such may be relevant to mental disorders characterised by social deficits (e.g., autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia). Stress and sex steroids exert demonstrable effects on mood and cognition. In patients with depression and anxiety disorders, initial attempts to lower/enhance such hormones have thus been undertaken within conventional therapies in order to improve outcomes. Finally, hunger and satiety hormones may be involved in the vicious circle of dysfunctional eating behaviours and weight loss/gain in anorexia or bulimia nervosa.

Conclusion: Three conclusions can be drawn from this review: First, endocrine research should be considered when patients and clinicians are developing multidimensional illness models together. Second, endocrine markers can complement conventional assessments to provide a more comprehensive account of a patient’s current state. Third, endocrine testing may guide treatment choices and inform the development of novel treatments.