The other face of depression, reduced positive affect: The role of catecholamines in causation and cure
Despite significant advances in pharmacologic therapy of depression over the past two decades, a substantial proportion of patients fail to respond or experience only partial response to serotonin re-uptake inhibitor antidepressants, resulting in chronic functional impairment. There appears to be a pattern of symptoms that are inadequately addressed by serotonergic antidepressants - loss of pleasure, loss of interest, fatigue and loss of energy. These symptoms are key to the maintenance of drive and motivation. Although these symptoms are variously defined, they are consistent with the concept of ;decreased positive affect'. Positive affect subsumes a broad range of positive mood states, including feelings of happiness (joy), interest, energy, enthusiasm, alertness and self-confidence. Although preliminary, there is evidence to suggest that antidepressants that enhance noradrenergic and dopaminergic activity may afford a therapeutic advantage over serotonergic antidepressants in the treatment of symptoms associated with a reduction in positive affect. Dopaminergic and noradrenergic agents, including the dual acting norepinephrine and dopamine re-uptake inhibitors, have demonstrated antidepressant activity in the absence of serotonergic function, showing similar efficacy to both tricyclic and serotonin re-uptake inhibitor antidepressants. Moreover, the norepinephrine and dopamine re-uptake inhibitor bupropion has been shown to significantly improve symptoms of energy, pleasure and interest in patients with depression with predominant baseline symptoms of decreased pleasure, interest and energy. Focusing treatment on the predominant or driving symptomatology for an individual patient with major depression could potentially improve rates of response and remission.