The role of central noradrenergic dysregulation in anxiety disorders: evidence from clinical studies

J Psychopharmacol. 2011 Jan;25(1):3-16. doi: 10.1177/0269881110367448. Epub 2010 Jun 8.


The nature of the noradrenergic dysregulation in clinical anxiety disorders remains unclear. In panic disorder, the predominant view has been that central noradrenergic neuronal networks and/or the sympathetic nervous system was normal in patients at rest, but hyper-reactive to specific stimuli, for example carbon dioxide. These ideas have been extended to other anxiety disorders, which share with panic disorder characteristic subjective anxiety and physiological symptoms of excess sympathetic activity. For example, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by chronic free-floating anxiety, muscle tension, palpitation and insomnia. It has been proposed that there is chronic central hypersecretion of noradrenaline in Generalized Anxiety Disorder, with consequent hyporesponsiveness of central post-synaptic receptors. With regards to other disorders, it has been suggested that there is noradrenergic involvement or derangement, but a more specific hypothesis has not been enunciated. This paper reviews the evidence for noradrenergic dysfunction in anxiety disorders, derived from indirect measures of noradrenergic function in clinical populations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy
  • Anxiety Disorders / genetics*
  • Anxiety Disorders / pathology
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism*
  • Norepinephrine / physiology
  • Panic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Phobic Disorders / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2 / metabolism*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology


  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-2
  • Norepinephrine