Can a major stress like a car accident elevate cortisol for an extended period of time? If someone is really shaken up, how long could elevated stress hormones be in the blood?
Absolutely. I personally know people who have had post traumatic stress disorder associated with motor vehicle collisions. Sorry I cant say as to how long cortisol in particular will remain elevated as it would be different in each case I suspect. Factors not even related to metabolic state and solely due to the accident may include severity of the accident, loved ones involved, number of collisions in a lifetime, even were and how the accident happened (for instance an accident on the way to work now may trigger anxiety each time you drive that route now), and of course other chronic stressors already present and base line stress just to name a few.