Although most research has focused on depressed mood or clinical unipolar depression in people with SLE, other research suggests that symptoms of anxiety may be equally important in this population, Dr. Elizabeth A. Bachen, of Mills College, Oakland, California, and colleagues write.

In the study the researchers investigated 326 white women with SLE to find the lifetime prevalence rates of depressive and anxiety disorders. All the patients had to undergo Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) for the assessment of psychiatric disorders. The subjects also had the Systemic Lupus Activity Questionnaire (SLAQ) to assess self-reported disease activity in the last 2 months.

Out of the 326 participants, 211 met the criteria for at least one of the following lifetime depressive or anxiety disorders: major depressive disorder (47%), specific phobia (24%), social phobia (16%), obsessive-compulsive disorder (9%), panic disorder (8%), bipolar I disorder (6%), generalized anxiety disorder (4%), dysthymic disorder (3%), and agoraphobia without panic disorder (1%).

The investigators reported that major depressive disorder, bipolar I disorder, panic disorder, specific phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are more commonly seen in SLE patients.

On the other hand, generalized anxiety disorder and dysthymic disorder were significantly less common in SLE patients.

In our study, we found that self-reported disease activity in patients with SLE, but not renal involvement (an important indicator of disease severity), predicted lifetime diagnoses of major depressive disorder and presence of any mood or anxiety disorder, Dr. Bachen’s team reports. It is possible that disease activity is more closely tied to mental health outcomes because it reflects symptoms that interfere with day-to-day activities and quality of life, such as fatigue, rashes, pain, and swelling.