Major Depression in 1998: Are We Providing Optimal Therapy?

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Depression is a common illness associated with long duration of episodes, high rates of chronicity, relapse and recurrence, psychosocial and physical impairment, and high suicide rate. A lifetime prevalence of approximately 17% has been widely reported, and the likelihood of recurrence is more than 50%. A conceptual shift has occurred in our understanding of depression. It is now seen as a chronic medical disorder that produces as much functional limitation and morbidity as chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Predictors of chronicity include long duration of index episode, relationship difficulties, low family income, admitting research center, and inpatient hospitalization. Risk factors for recurrence include lack of selfconfidence, neuroticism, previous hospital admission, loss events, and age. The aim of treatment is to induce a stable, fully asymptomatic state with full restoration of psychosocial function and to establish a long-term state of wellness. Despite effective pharmacotherapy, depressed patients are often underdiagnosed and undertreated by both psychiatrists and primary care physicians. The psychosocial and physical impairment, comorbidity, and high suicide rate associated with chronic, recurrent depression require optimal treatment strategies. The future of antidepressant treatment should focus on remission or getting the patient well and drugs that will induce and maintain long-term recovery.

J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60(suppl 6):5-9