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Difficult-to-Treat Depressions: A Primary Care Perspective

J. Sloan Manning, MD

Published: January 1, 2003

Article Abstract

Depression is common in primary care and more difficult to treat than many clinicians are aware.The goal of treatment is symptomatic remission, and by current estimates 50% or more of patientstreated with antidepressant monotherapy may suffer from residual neurovegetative, cognitive, andsomatic symptoms. Bipolar disorder, in particular, is more prevalent in primary care than previouslyrecognized, is easily misdiagnosed, and may be a significant source of treatment failure. This articlereviews treatment resistance, its causes, and management approaches. Many strategies are straight-forwardand within the skill set of primary care clinicians. The use of antidepressants with multiplemechanisms of action may reduce first-order resistance. Antidepressant augmentation strategies (e.g.,with lithium or atypical antipsychotics) are often very effective and readily instituted by informed andmotivated practitioners.

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