Depression pp 41-73 | Cite as

The Biology of Affective Illness: Amine Neurotransmitters and Drug Response

  • Frederick K. Goodwin
  • William Z. Potter


For years psychiatrists have speculated that the depressive syndrome, especially in its more severe forms, reflects a biological dysfunction at some level. This chapter will review certain biological and pharmacological approaches toward understanding affective illnesses and choosing specific treatments for them. The belief that biology is somehow involved in the syndrome of depression has its roots in a number of important observations, some of which are presented in depth elsewhere in this volume. Genetic studies suggest that individuals inherit a predisposition toward the depressive syndrome.1,2 Careful comparative studies of pharmacotherapy with and without psychotherapy consistently demonstrate the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs; it is this fact, above all others, which points to an involvement of biology in depression. Two other features of major depressions suggesting a biological contribution are their predictable duration and high probability of recurrence. Recent long-term studies from Europe indicate that the majority of major depressive and affective illnesses are recurrent.3,4 From 55% to 85% of affective illnesses requiring extensive medical intervention or hospitalization are found to be recurrent when patients are followed over time.3,4 This holds true whether the diagnosis is depression (unipolar) or manic-depressive illness (bipolar).


Depressed Patient Affective Disorder Biogenic Amine Urinary Free Cortisol Fusaric Acid 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederick K. Goodwin
    • 1
  • William Z. Potter
    • 1
  1. 1.Clinical Psychobiology BranchNational Institute of Mental HealthBethesdaUSA

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