Anxious-retarded depression: relation with plasma vasopressin and cortisol

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Neuropsychopharmacology, Volume 28, Number 1, p.140-147 (2003)

DOI Name (links to online publication)



Adult; Anxiety; Arginine Vasopressin; Biological Markers; blood; Cross-Over Studies; Depression; Depressive Disorder; Female; Follow-Up Studies; Humans; Hydrocortisone; Male; Middle Aged; Netherlands; Prospective Studies; Psychiatric Status Rating Scales;


Dysregulation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is related to melancholic or endogenous depression; however, the strength of this relationship depends on the definition of the specific depression subcategory. A two-dimensionally defined subcategory, anxious-retarded depression, is related to melancholic depression. Since arginine vasopressin (AVP) activates the HPA axis, and both major depression and the melancholic subcategory are associated with elevated plasma AVP levels, we investigated whether the plasma AVP level is also elevated in anxious-retarded depression, melancholic depression and anxious-retarded melancholic depression, and whether plasma AVP and cortisol levels are correlated in these subcategories. A total of 66 patients with major depression not using oral contraception were investigated. Patients with anxious-retarded depression had a highly significant AVP-cortisol correlation, while no such correlation was found in patients with nonanxious-retarded depression. Log-transformed mean plasma AVP values were higher in patients with anxious-retarded depression than in patients with nonanxious-retarded depression. Patients with anxious-retarded melancholic depression also had a significantly elevated level of plasma AVP and a highly significant correlation between plasma AVP and cortisol levels. The correlation was low in patients with melancholic depression. Anxious-retarded depression may be a useful refinement of the melancholic subcategory with regard to dysregulation of the HPA axis and plasma AVP release