High plasma norepinephrine levels in patients with major affective disorder

Am J Psychiatry. 1982 Oct;139(10):1315-8. doi: 10.1176/ajp.139.10.1315.


The authors found that patients with major affective disorder had higher levels of plasma norepinephrine and higher pulse rates (tachycardia) than healthy control subjects, but their blood pressures were normal. These measurements were similar in all three subgroups of patients with affective disorder--manic, bipolar depressed, and unipolar. Because norepinephrine is the primary neurotransmitter of the sympathetic nervous system, these data suggest sympathetic hyperactivity in the major affective disorders. This conclusion is compatible with recent speculation based on the effect of antidepressants on noradrenergic receptors and a failure of alpha-receptors to downregulate normally in patients with major affective disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Disorders, Psychotic / blood*
  • Affective Disorders, Psychotic / physiopathology
  • Aged
  • Bipolar Disorder / blood
  • Bipolar Disorder / physiopathology
  • Blood Pressure
  • Depressive Disorder / blood
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Norepinephrine / blood*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha / physiology
  • Tachycardia / physiopathology


  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha
  • Norepinephrine