Objective: This study was undertaken to help clarify whether the higher cholesterol levels found in patients with panic disorder are a complication of panic disorder only or are associated with any psychiatric disorder.
Method: The subjects of the study were 30 patients with panic disorder and 30 patients with major depression, diagnosed according to the Structured Interview for DSM-III-R, and 30 normal control subjects. The three groups were matched for sex and age, and none of the subjects had alcohol/drug abuse, abnormal ECGs, or unstable medical conditions. Blood samples were drawn at random times, and serum cholesterol levels were determined.
Results: The patients with panic disorder had significantly higher serum cholesterol levels than did the patients with major depression and the normal control subjects. Among the patients with major depression, histories (current or past) of anxiety disorders were associated with significant elevation of serum cholesterol levels. The presence of stable medical conditions was not associated with higher cholesterol levels in any of the three groups of subjects.
Conclusions: Higher cholesterol levels were particularly associated with panic disorder in comparison with major depression. Higher levels of cholesterol in panic disorder are hypothesized to be a result of increased noradrenergic activity, which may be the underlying biological/neurochemical mechanism for symptoms of panic disorder, including anticipatory anxiety.