Study finds hereditary link to premenstrual depression

CHAPEL HILL - A specific genetic variation may be tied to an increased risk for severe premenstrual depression, scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the National Institute of Mental Health have found.

Known medically as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, this psychiatric condition affects roughly 8 percent of women in their childbearing years. It's characterized by bouts of major depression and/or anxiety and severe irritability during the second half of the menstrual cycle. Symptoms subside with the onset of each menstrual period.

While PMDD has been thought to be linked to hormonal changes over the course of the menstrual cycle, until now an explanation for the susceptibility to hormone-related mood changes has been elusive. "Our initial hope in the study was that by looking at steroid-related genes like those for receptors for steroid hormones such as estrogen, we would be able to find gene differences that might explain why some women have these mood disorders and others don't," said Dr. David R. Rubinow, the study's senior author and the Meymandi distinguished professor and chair of psychiatry at UNC School of Medicine. "This study may begin to provide important clues to the nature of that susceptibility."

The study is the first to identify a genetic variation linked to a mood disorder associated with endocrine changes during the menstrual cycle, Rubinow said. The results will appear in an upcoming print edition of the journal Biological Psychiatry and were published online June 30, 2007. The study was supported by funds from the Intramural Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

The research involved 91 women for whom the authors prospectively confirmed a diagnosis of PMDD over at least three months. Another 56 women who had no history of mood disorders related to the menstrual cycle served as a comparison group. All the women provided

Contact: Les Lang
University of North Carolina School of Medicine

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