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Empowerment key to fighting depression

  [ 52 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • September 4, 2000

People who feel more self-control over their health have a better chance at reducing depression whether they are treated with psychotherapy or an antidepressant, according to results of a recent study. These implications are of particular interest to those with CFS/FM because treating the depression that often accompanies chronic illnesses is critical.

In fact, this greater sense of health control was the single most important factor associated with reduced symptoms in patients treated with interpersonal psychotherapy.

"These findings are consistent with earlier reports suggesting that a person's expectations and beliefs are important in the successful treatment of depression, particularly with psychotherapy," said Charlotte Brown, PhD, of the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, in Pennsylvania, the lead author of the article appearing in the July/August issue of General Hospital Psychiatry.

The study also concluded that a treatment plan for depression should include nonmedical factors based on a patient's own health beliefs.

"Understanding the patient factors associated with good treatment results would allow clinicians to customize depression treatments to particular patient profiles -- and thus minimize relapse or recurrence," said Brown.

Studies of depressed patients tend to focus on individuals who are seeing psychiatrists. This study is one of a few to focus on depressed patients seeking treatment in a primary care setting. Most patients with mental illnesses seek help from their primary care physicians, according to the study.

Brown and colleagues analyzed the treatment results from a group of 181 primary care patients who received eight months of treatment for moderate to severe depression.

The researchers also noted that patients suffering from a psychiatric disorder in addition to depression -- such as panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder -- were less likely to recover from their depressive episode, whether they were treated with psychotherapy or nortriptyline.

"These findings highlight the need to adequately assess symptoms of anxiety disorder and a patient's beliefs in the controllability of depressive symptoms and functioning in order to treat depression effectively and to minimize the risk of relapse and recurrence," concludes Brown.

This study was originally published in General Hospital Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed research journal published bimonthly by Elsevier Science.

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