Increased Neuroactive Steroid Concentrations in Women With Bipolar Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder

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Changes in the plasma concentrations of neuroactive steroids have been associated with various neuropsychiatric disorders. However, the possible role of neuroactive steroids in bipolar disorder (BD) has remained unknown. We therefore determined the plasma levels of neuroactive steroids during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle in women with BD or major depressive disorder (MDD). The plasma concentrations of 3α-hydroxy-5α-pregnan-20-one (3α,5α-THPROG), 3α,21-dihydroxy-5α-pregnan-20-one, progesterone, and cortisol were determined in 17 outpatients with BD, 14 outpatients with MDD, and 16 healthy control subjects. All patients were in a state of well-being and without relapse or recurrence for at least 3 months. Plasma concentrations of progesterone and 3α,5α-THPROG were significantly greater in patients than in controls, also being higher in BD patients than in MDD patients. Drug-free patients with BD or MDD showed similar differences in steroid concentrations relative to controls, as did drug-treated patients. Comorbidity with panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or eating disorder had no effect on the association of mood disorders with steroid concentrations. Women with BD or MDD in a state of well-being showed higher plasma concentrations of progesterone and 3α,5α-THPROG in the luteal phase than did healthy controls. These differences did not seem to be attributable simply to drug treatment or to comorbidity with other psychiatric conditions in the patients.

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