August 8, 2008

Oestrogen may relieve psychosis

[Posted: Tue 05/08/2008 by Joanne McCarthy]

The major form of oestrogen found in humans, oestradiol, appears to be a useful treatment in women with schizophrenia when combined with antipsychotic medication, an Australian report has indicated.

In the study, 102 women of childbearing age with schizophrenia were divided into two groups, one of which received a certain amount of oestradiol daily via a skin patch. The other group received a placebo skin patch.

The group of women taking oestradiol exhibited a greater improvement in psychotic symptoms over time compared to the women taking antipsychotic medication alone. Psychotic symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions and severe thought disturbances.

They also experienced a decline in certain symptoms, specifically those that represent a distortion of normal functions.

The link between oestrogen and mental illness was recognised more than a century ago. However, scientific evidence regarding oestrogen as a therapy for mental illness has only recently emerged.

"Observations of sex differences in the onset and course of schizophrenia prompted exploration of oestrogen's role in schizophrenia," the authors of the study contended.

Oestrogen may have a preventive role in women with schizophrenia who undergo hormonal changes shown to cause a deterioration of their condition, such as those following childbirth and menopause, added Dr Jayashri Kulkarni of the Alfred and Monash University, Melbourne.

"Oestrogen treatment is a promising new area for future treatment of schizophrenia, and potentially for other severe mental illnesses," the authors concluded.

The report is published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.