Several mood and anxiety disorders are more common in women with lupus than women in the general population, according to results of a study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissue. The condition can vary widely in severity, manifesting as a skin rash and arthritis or leading to damage to the kidneys, heart, lungs and brain to varying degrees.

"Although most research has focused on depressed mood...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.

The researchers examined lifetime rates of depressive and anxiety disorders in 326 white women with SLE. (Women are nine-times more likely to be affected than are men.) The subjects completed the Composite International Diagnostic Interview for the assessment of psychiatric disorders. They also completed the Systemic Lupus Activity Questionnaire to assess the severity of their lupus in the last 2 months.

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

The investigators found that major depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, specific phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder were significantly more common among SLE subjects than among other white women.

In contrast, generalized anxiety disorder and mild depression were significantly less common in SLE patients.