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Keywords:

  • affective disorder;
  • depression;
  • mania;
  • life event;
  • catecholamine;
  • norepinephrine

We investigated the perceived role of stressful events in episodes of major affective disorder in patients studied in the NIMH Clinical Research Branch Collaborative Program on the Psychobiology of Depression (Biological Studies). Using items from the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (SADS), episodes were divided into environment-sensitive (high perceived role of stressful events) and autonomous (minimal or no perceived role of stressful events). Patients with environment-sensitive episodes had fewer previous episodes and a longer index episode. The groups did not differ with respect to age, gender, education, socioeconomic group, diagnosis, severity of illness, or eventual response to treatment. Unipolar depressed patients with environment-sensitive episodes had lower CSF 5-HIAA than those with autonomous episodes. Among bipolar depressed patients, those with autonomous episodes had elevated excretion of O-methylated catecholamine metabolites and of epinephrine, while those with environment-sensitive episodes had normal excretion of cate-cholamines and metabolites. Manic subjects with environment-sensitive episodes had elevated norepinephrine excretion, while this was normal in manics with autonomous episodes. Relationships between environmental sensitivity of affective episodes and neurotransmitter function therefore appear to be related to the type of episode.;