Published Thursday 26 October 2017 By Tim Newman
Fact checked by Jasmin Collier
According to a recent study, although treating major depressive disorder has benefits in the short-term, over a longer period of time, it may make the condition worse.
Major depressive disorder is a serious, debilitating mental illness. In the United States, it affects more than 16.1 million people over the age of 18. Although its prevalence is high, it is still a difficult condition to treat.
Treatments include medications such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and talking therapies, such as cognitive therapy. No case of depression is the same, and often, individuals receive a range of treatments across their lifetime.
How well the treatment of depression works has come under scrutiny over recent years, and the debate is by no means over. The latest study, published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, adds another dimension to this ongoing conversation.
Clinical Treatment Compared with Community
Individuals with major depressive disorder who receive medication or cognitive therapy often see a reduction in their depressive symptoms and experience significantly longer times before relapse.
But over the longer-term, the picture is less clear. This is primarily because studies generally only run for 1–2 years. This gap in our knowledge could be important.
Around 85 percent of patients within specialized mental healthcare settings experience another major depressive episode within 15 years, but only 35 percent of people with major depressive disorder in the community have a relapse in the same time frame.
These figures come from a 2010 study that looked at predictors of depressive episodes. They concluded that “[c]linical factors seem the most important predictors of recurrence.”
Why might there be such a difference in relapse risk? The new study set out to investigate whether or not this disparity might be due to the treatments they received.
The research was conducted by Jeffrey R. Vittengl, from the Department of Psychology at Truman State University in Kirksville, MO.