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Network models block reductionism about psychiatric disorders only if models are interpreted in a realist manner – that is, taken to represent “what psychiatric disorders really are.” A flexible and more instrumentalist view of models is needed to improve our understanding of the heterogeneity and multifactorial character of psychiatric disorders.
Improvement in depression within the first 2 weeks of antidepressant treatment predicts good outcomes, but non-improvers can still respond or remit, whereas improvers often do not.
We aimed to investigate whether early improvement of individual depressive symptoms better predicts response or remission.
We obtained individual patient data of 30 trials comprising 2184 placebo-treated and 6058 antidepressant-treated participants. Primary outcome was week 6 response; secondary outcomes were week 6 remission and week 12 response and remission. We compared models that only included improvement in total score by week 2 (total improvement model) with models that also included improvement in individual symptoms.
For week 6 response, the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve and negative and positive predictive values of the total improvement model were 0.73, 0.67 and 0.74 compared with 0.77, 0.70 and 0.71 for the item improvement model. Model performance decreased for week 12 outcomes. Of predicted non-responders, 29% actually did respond by week 6 and 43% by week 12, which was decreased from the baseline (overall) probabilities of 51% by week 6 and 69% by week 12. In post hoc analyses with continuous rather than dichotomous early improvement, including individual items did not enhance model performance.
Examining individual symptoms adds little to the predictive ability of early improvement. Additionally, early non-improvement does not rule out response or remission, particularly after 12 rather than 6 weeks. Therefore, our findings suggest that routinely adapting pharmacological treatment because of limited early improvement would often be premature.
Major depression (MD) occurs about twice as often in women as in men, but it is unclear whether sex differences subsist after disease onset. This study aims to elucidate potential sex differences in rates and risk factors for MD recurrence, in order to improve prediction of course of illness and understanding of its underlying mechanisms.
We used prospective data from a general population sample (n = 653) that experienced a recent episode of MD. A diverse set of potential risk factors for recurrence of MD was analyzed using Cox models subject to elastic net regularization for males and females separately. Accuracy of the prediction models was tested in same-sex and opposite-sex test data. Additionally, interactions between sex and each of the risk factors were investigated to identify potential sex differences.
Recurrence rates and the impact of most risk factors were similar for men and women. For both sexes, prediction models were highly multifactorial including risk factors such as comorbid anxiety, early traumas, and family history. Some subtle sex differences were detected: for men, prediction models included more risk factors concerning characteristics of the depressive episode and family history of MD and generalized anxiety, whereas for women, models included more risk factors concerning early and recent adverse life events and socioeconomic problems.
No prominent sex differences in risk factors for recurrence of MD were found, potentially indicating similar disease maintaining mechanisms for both sexes. Course of MD is a multifactorial phenomenon for both males and females.
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