Aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) deficiency is a neurometabolic genetic disease caused by mutations in the DDC gene that result in ineffective communication between the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and the rest of the body.

Causes of anxiety and depression

Symptoms of AADC deficiency can be wide ranging; patients often experience stress, movement disorders, fatigue, autonomic dysfunction, and seizures. These symptoms can have a considerable impact on patients’ quality of life, which can lead to anxiety and depression.

Anxiety attacks — or states of prolonged, severe anxiety — are typically accompanied by such evident signs as excessive sweating, trembling, sensations of shortness of breath, a feeling of tightness in the chest, and an increased heart rate.

Depression affects an individual’s mood and impacts key daily life activities like thinking, sleeping, and eating.

Although anxiety and depression are clinically different conditions, they often occur together. Long-term depression (lasting longer than two weeks) needs clinical attention.

Treating anxiety and depression

No universal treatment for anxiety and depression exists, as each individual has unique experiences and symptoms. Once AADC deficiency treatment is initiated and symptoms improve, a patient’s levels of anxiety and depression are likely to come down as well.

If the symptoms of anxiety and depression are significant and lasting, psychotherapy (talk therapy), medications, or a combination of both may be suggested. Psychotherapy sessions involve active conversations between the patient and the psychiatrist, and the building of trust and a patient-therapist relationship to improve a sense of well-being.

There is no direct evidence supporting the use of anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications in AADC deficiency patients specifically, but medications such as benzodiazepines can help in reducing the symptoms of anxiety in general. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are also used to treat anxiety or depression.

Complementary approaches for treating depression include St. John’s wort and dietary supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). Although available over-the-counter, recommendations are that they be taken only under a doctor’s (or other medical professional’s) supervision.

 

Last updated: Oct. 07, 2019

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AADC News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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Özge has a MSc. in Molecular Genetics from the University of Leicester and a PhD in Developmental Biology from Queen Mary University of London. She worked as a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the University of Leicester for six years in the field of Behavioural Neurology before moving into science communication. She worked as the Research Communication Officer at a London based charity for almost two years.