Organic mood disorder associated with the HAIR-AN syndrome

J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. Winter 1992;4(1):51-4. doi: 10.1176/jnp.4.1.51.


The HAIR-AN syndrome is characterized by hyperandrogenism, insulin resistance, and acanthosis nigricans. The authors report the first case of an organic mood disorder associated with this condition that improved markedly in response to ovarian suppression with oral contraceptives. The proposed pathophysiology of this syndrome is also discussed.

PIP: Psychiatrists at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia examined a 37-year old divorced woman suffering from refractory depression. She reported her 1st bout of depression to be at 9-10 years old (onset of menses). She tried to kill herself at ages 11 and 17. The only time she remembered not being depressed was when she was using oral contraceptives (OCs). She 1st took them for oligomenorrhea at age 14. She suffered from oligomenorrhea off and on ever since then. The next time she took OCs was in her early 20s while she was married. She stopped taking them after she had her son. An outpatient psychiatrist had been treating her for the last 10 years. 3 years before this visit to Emory, psychotic depression and a suicide attempt sent her to a hospital. 5 years before coming to Emory, she gained 40 lbs and developed hirsutism, acne, and a low-pitched voice. 8 months before coming to Emory, a physician diagnosed acanthosis nigricans which is dark hyperpigmentation of the epidermis in body fold areas. 6 months prior to coming to Emory, an endocrinologist evaluated her for oligomenorrhea, obesity, and hirsutism and prescribed 0.25 mg dexamethasone/day to inhibit androgen production, regulate menses, and reduce facial hair. 3 months before admission, she experience severe depression. Her psychiatrist treated her with bupropion, amitriptyline, buspirone, and lithium and continued the same dexamethasone treatment. At Emory, her glucose tolerance tests were abnormal and her insulin levels were elevated. Emory psychiatrist stopped all psychotropic medications and dexamethasone. They and some endocrinologists diagnosed HAIR-AN syndrome (hyperandrogenism, insulin resistance, and acanthosis nigricans). They prescribed OCs and within several weeks her mood improved. 2 months later she was fine and had lost 25 lbs. The primary disturbances of HAIR-AN syndrome are insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism. These 2 disturbances together cause acanthosis nigricans.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acanthosis Nigricans / physiopathology*
  • Acanthosis Nigricans / psychology
  • Adult
  • Androgens / blood*
  • Contraceptives, Oral / administration & dosage
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / psychology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / psychology


  • Androgens
  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Hydrocortisone