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Differences Between Minimally Depressed Patients Who Do and Do Not Consider Themselves to Be in Remission

J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66:1134-1138

Objective: We recently derived a cutoff on a self-report scale corresponding to the most commonly used definition of remission in depression treatment studies (i.e., Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression [HAM-D] score < = 7). However, recent research has suggested that use of this cutoff on the HAM-D to define remission is overinclusive. The goal of the present report from the Rhode Island Methods to Improve Diagnostic Assessment and Services (MIDAS) project was to examine how many depressed patients in ongoing treatment who are considered to be in remission by a self-report equivalent of the HAM-D definition of remission nonetheless do not consider themselves to be in remission.

Method: Five hundred thirty-five psychiatric outpatients treated for a DSM-IV major depressive episode were asked whether they considered themselves to be in remission and completed the Clinically Useful Depression Outcome Scale (CUDOS), a measure of the severity of the DSM-IV symptoms of depression. The study was conducted from August 2003 until July 2004.

Results: Nearly one quarter of the patients who met the remission threshold on the CUDOS (55/249) did not consider themselves to be in remission. Among the CUDOS remitters, the total score on the CUDOS was significantly lower (p < .001) in patients who considered themselves to be in remission than in patients who did not indicate that they were in remission. Examination of specific symptoms revealed greater appetite disturbance and hypersomnia in the patients who did not think they were in remission.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that heterogeneity of clinical status exists even among patients who are minimally depressed and considered to be in remission according to contemporary definitions on symptom severity scales.