Clinical and biochemical manifestations of depression. Relation to the neurobiology of stress (2)

N Engl J Med. 1988 Aug 18;319(7):413-20. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198808183190706.


Thousands of studies have been conducted of the functioning of the many neurotransmitter systems in order to explore the biologic basis of major depressive disorder. Instead of reviewing this literature exhaustively, we have attempted to propose a model that accommodates the clinical observation that chronic stress early in life in vulnerable persons predisposes them to major depression with contemporary observations of the potential consequences of repeated central nervous system exposure to effectors of the stress response. This model accords with current clinical judgment that major depression is best treated with a combination of psychopharmacologic agents and psychotherapy. Accordingly, whereas psychopharmacologic intervention may be required to resolve an active episode of major depression and to prevent recurrences, psychotherapy may be equally important to lessen the burden of stress imposed by intense inner conflict and counterproductive defenses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Depressive Disorder / metabolism
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*