Growth hormone treatment in adults with childhood onset growth hormone deficiency: Effects on psychological capabilities

A. Sartorio, E. Molinari, G. Riva, A. Conti, F. Morabito, G. Faglia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The psychological aspects (personal traits, way of relating to the surrounding environment, perception of body image, degree of self-esteem) of eight adults with childhood onset growth hormone (GH) deficiency (GHD) were studied before and after 6 months of recombinant GH therapy. Each subject was evaluated using the following tests: the Bem Sex Role test, the non-verbal scales of the WAIS test for adults, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Experiential-World Inventory, the Image-Marking Method and the Draw-a-Person test; a psychoneurophysiological profile was also evaluated in order to monitor, by means of four neurophysiological variables (muscular tension, galvanic resistance, skin temperature and heart rate), the reactions to specific and aspecific stress. Before treatment, adults with GHD tended to underestimate their body size by an average of 30%, with peaks of 47% for the head area; furthermore, they showed a low level of self-esteem, a closed attitude towards social relationships, a pessimistic attitude with a tendency towards depression and a strong sense of detachment from the outside world. After 6 months of GH treatment, patients presented an overall improvement in relation to intellectual tasks, accompanied by a lower level of stress during their performance. A clear improvement was also observed in terms of emotional control during specific and aspecific stress, which might contribute a positive effect on their interrelationships. As expected, the treatment was not able to reduce the subjects' highly distorted perception of body image, due to the fact that GH treatment, despite a clear amelioration of lean/fat body mass ratio, did not change their body proportions. The finding that 6 months after stopping GH therapy, the psychological characteristics of patients reverted to those recorded before treatment supports the GH dependence of the effects observed during therapy. In conclusion, our study seems to suggest that adults with GHD, despite adequate replacement therapy (but not with GH), experience psychological difficulties which seem to be positively influenced by GH therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-11
Number of pages6
JournalHormone Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1995


  • Adulthood
  • Behavioural problems
  • Body dimension image
  • Growth hormone
  • Psychosocial effects
  • Self concept

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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