In health, acute administration of glucocorticoids, such as dexamethasone (DEX), leads to growth hormone (GH) secretion. Depression is characterized by blunted DEX/GH responses. In order to determine the specificity of this test for depression we administered 4 mg of oral DEX, to patients with a DSM-III-R diagnosis of depression, schizophrenia, mania and alcohol dependency syndrome. Samples for GH estimation were taken at − 15 min, 0 min, +60 min, +180 min, +240 min and +300 min. GH responses were attenuated to a similar degree in depression and mania. Less marked attenuation was seen in schizophrenia while those with alcohol dependency syndrome had GH responses indistinguishable from normal volunteers. Overall, we conclude that subnormal DEX/GH secretion is not specific to depression.