Sleep disorders and anxiety as symptom profiles of sympathoadrenal system hyperactivity in major depression

M. Maes*, H. Y. Meltzer, E. Suy, B. Minner, J. Calabrese, P. Cosyns

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Recently, it has been reported that major depression is accompanied by an increased sympathoadrenal system (SAS) activity. In order to study the psychopathological correlates of SAS activity in depression, the authors measured the 24 h urinary excretion of catecholamines (CA), i.e., noradrenaline (NE), adrenaline (E), dopamine (DA) and the NE/E metabolite 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG) in 80 unipolar depressed subjects. The excretion of these indices of SAS activity have been studied in relation to the depressive items of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III (SCID) and the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS). There were significant positive correlations between the SCID item sleep disorders and the HDRS item middle insomia, on the one hand, and NE, E and DA excretion, on the other. The MHPG excretion in 24 h urine was significantly and negatively related to somatic anxiety and hypochondriasis. It is suggested that these intertwined relationships between increased CA turnover, sleep discontinuity and anxiety may reflect the occurence of a hyperarousal state in some major depressives that may be regarded as a coping response to various putative noxious stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-207
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1993


  • 3-Methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol
  • Adrenaline
  • Catecholamine
  • Depression
  • Dopamine
  • Noradrenaline
  • Psychopathological correlate
  • Sympathoadrenal system (SAS) activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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