Estrogen reduces severity of schizophrenia symptoms

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Estrogen may be a useful adjunctive therapy for severe mental illness, according to researchers who report that it reduces symptoms in schizophrenic women. Their study findings are published in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Estrogen may be a useful adjunctive therapy for severe mental illness, according to researchers who report that it reduces symptoms in schizophrenic women. Their study findings are published in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Jayashri Kulkarni, PhD, of The Alfred and Monash University School of Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues conducted a study of 102 women of childbearing age with schizophrenia and in the chronic or acute phase of their illness, of whom 73 were outpatients.

While 56 patients received 100 μg of transdermal estradiol, 48 received transdermal placebo, the researchers report. Treatment lasted for 28 days, during which time patients in the estradiol group had significantly fewer general psychopathological symptoms compared with the women in the placebo group.

“There are several avenues for potential estrogen treatment in schizophrenia. For example, estrogen may have a preventive role in women with schizophrenia whose condition has been known to deteriorate in periods of hormonal change, including postpartum periods, menopause and low-estrogen phases of the menstrual cycle. There are also preliminary results to suggest that estrogen may protect men against psychotic symptoms,” the authors write. “Estrogen treatment is a promising new area for future treatment of schizophrenia and potentially for other severe mental illnesses.”

Kulkarni J, de Castella A, Fitzgerald PB, et al. Estrogen in severe mental illness. A potential new treatment approach. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008;65:955-960.

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