Recognizing the Stages of Adrenal Dysfunction

Recognizing the Stages of Adrenal Dysfunction


The resistance phase is a common response to chronic stress and manifests as high cortisol levels. If the chronic stress persists, the next phase is known as the exhaustion phase, and manifests as low cortisol levels. One could then think of these phases as a tendency towards either Cushing’s syndrome (high cortisol) or Addison’s syndrome (low cortisol).


Sign or Symptom

Exhaustion Phase Tendency

(Low Cortisol)

Resistance Phase Tendency

(High Cortisol)

Blood pressure Low High
Body weight Difficulty putting on muscle Truncal fat deposition
Hair Decreased body/facial hair Increased body/facial hair
Musculoskeletal Arthritis Osteoporosis
Blood sugar Low (hypoglycemic) High (insulin resistance or diabetes)
Skin Dry Acne
Sweat/Secretions Scanty Excessive
Cholesterol Low total cholesterol High triglycerides


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