Cortisol, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands in times of stress, may help people cope when it is given before an unpleasant situation.
Most studies of cortisol have looked at the hormone's negative effects when chronic stress keeps its levels high. Psychologists Oliver T. Wolf and Serkan Het of Bielefeld University in Germany were interested in the short-term effects of cortisol on mood. They gave 22 young women 30 milligrams of cortisol—a fairly high dose. A control group of 22 women received a placebo.