From the May 2012 PNA Newsletter:
Psychological Manifestations of Pituitary Disease
Editor’s note: This is an introduction to a lecture given by Dr. Michael Weitzner. It makes many of the points that the PNA strives to promote.
The objectives of this lecture are to provide an overview of the psychological and neuropsychiatric problems faced by patients with pituitary disease, the impact on family, and the options for treatment.
Cushing, himself, believed that there was a need to differentiate the psychological effects that resulted from the pituitary tumor from those that resulted from the stress of illness. It is now recognized that the hypothalamic-pituitary axis is not only an integral element in the expression of behavior, but also an essential part of the limbic system which controls our emotions.
Many patients with pituitary tumors develop an apathy syndrome which is the result of this interplay between the limbic system and the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. An important task is the differentiation of this apathy syndrome from other psychiatric disturbances which are also seen in patients with pituitary disease. It is well recognized that depression and anxiety are present in many patients with hyperprolactinemia and Cushing’s disease. Personality change and anxiety are commonly seen in patients with acromegaly and hypopituitarism. There are several options for treatment, both pharmacological and psychological. One element that is unfortunately ignored in this illness is the effect on the family. Effective treatment of the patient with pituitary disease included treatment of the family.
Michael A. Weitzner, M.D., Department of Psychiatry,University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida