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Are Psychiatric Symptoms a Prodrome of Parkinson’s Disease?

When present, anxiety and depressive disorders preceded Parkinson’s disease diagnosis by approximately two decades, on average.


MIAMI—Anxiety and depressive disorders may precede Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in more than half of patients—anxiety by 25 years and depression by 17 years, on average, according to research described at the Second Pan American Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Congress. The data suggest that “neurodegenerative changes may be present in the limbic system before affecting motor circuits,” said the researchers.

“Anxiety, depression, impulse control disorders, irritability, mania, psychosis, and cognitive deficits are the most common psychiatric features of Parkinson’s disease,” said Andreea L. Seritan, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and colleagues. Previous research has indicated that anxiety and depression increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Andrea L. Seritan, MD

A Retrospective Chart Review

To examine the lifetime prevalence of psychiatric disorders and compare the onset ages of anxiety and depressive disorders with ages at Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, Dr. Seritan and colleagues conducted a retrospective chart review of patients with Parkinson’s disease who were evaluated by psychiatrists at the UCSF Movement Disorders and Neuromodulation Center. The center provides comprehensive, multidisciplinary evaluation and management of patients with movement disorders.

The researchers analyzed data from all 108 patients with Parkinson’s disease seen between October 2015 and January 2018.

Psychiatric diagnoses and onset ages were established through clinical interview, using DSM-V criteria. Researchers used neurologists’ notes to identify age of Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. When exact onset ages were not available, the researchers imputed missing onset ages by decade of life.

Most Patients Had a Lifetime Prevalence of Depressive Disorders

Of the 108 participants, 33.3% were women, and the mean age was 63.7. In all, 67% of patients had a lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders, and 87% of participants had a lifetime prevalence of depressive disorders.

Psychiatric symptoms preceded Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in 48 (72%) patients with anxiety disorders and in 58 (68%) of those with depressive disorders. “Both anxiety and depressive disorders had onset in the fourth decade of life, on average, preceding Parkinson’s disease diagnosis by approximately two decades,” Dr. Seritan and colleagues said.

—Erica Tricarico

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