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Antidepressant medications (ADMs) are widely used and long-term use is increasing. Given this extensive use and recommendation of ADMs in guidelines, one would expect ADMs to be universally considered effective. Surprisingly, that is not the case; fierce debate on their benefits and harms continues. This editorial seeks to understand why the controversy continues and how consensus can be achieved.
‘Position’ paper. Critical analysis and synthesis of relevant literature.
Advocates point at ADMs impressive effect size (number needed to treat, NNT = 6–8) in acute phase treatment and continuation/maintenance ADM treatment prevention relapse/recurrence in acute phase ADM responders (NNT = 3–4). Critics point at the limited clinically significant surplus value of ADMs relative to placebo and argue that effectiveness is overstated. We identified multiple factors that fuel the controversy: certainty of evidence is low to moderate; modest efficacy on top of strong placebo effects allows critics to focus on small net efficacy and advocates on large gross efficacy; ADM withdrawal symptoms masquerade as relapse/recurrence; lack of association between ADM treatment and long-term outcome in observational databases. Similar problems affect psychological treatments as well, but less so. We recommend four approaches to resolve the controversy: (1) placebo-controlled trials with relevant long-term outcome assessments, (2) inventive analyses of observational databases, (3) patient cohort studies including effect moderators to improve personalized treatment, and (4) psychological treatments as universal first-line treatment step.
Given the public health significance of depression and increased long-term ADM usage, new approaches are needed to resolve the controversy.
Research in depression has progressed rapidly over the past four decades. Yet depression rates are not subsiding and treatment success is not improving. We examine the extent to which the gap between science and practice is associated with the level of integration in how depression is considered in research and stakeholder-relevant documents.
We used a network-science perspective to analyze similar uses of depression relevant terms in the Google News corpus (approximately 1 billion words) and the Web of Science database (120 000 documents).
These analyses yielded consistent pictures of insular modules associated with: (1) patient/providers, (2) academics, and (3) industry. Within academia insular modules associated with psychology, general medical, and psychiatry/neuroscience/biology were also detected.
These analyses suggest that the domain of depression is fragmented, and that advancements of relevance to one stakeholder group (academics, industry, or patients) may not translate to the others. We consider potential causes and associated responses to this fragmentation that could help to unify and advance translation from research on depression to the clinic, largely involving harmonizing employed language, bridging conceptual domains, and increasing communication across stakeholder groups.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and maintenance antidepressant medication (mADM) both reduce the risk of relapse in recurrent depression, but their combination has not been studied.
To investigate whether MBCT with discontinuation of mADM is non-inferior to MBCT+mADM.
A multicentre randomised controlled non-inferiority trial (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT00928980). Adults with recurrent depression in remission, using mADM for 6 months or longer (n = 249), were randomly allocated to either discontinue (n = 128) or continue (n = 121) mADM after MBCT. The primary outcome was depressive relapse/recurrence within 15 months. A confidence interval approach with a margin of 25% was used to test non-inferiority. Key secondary outcomes were time to relapse/recurrence and depression severity.
The difference in relapse/recurrence rates exceeded the non-inferiority margin and time to relapse/recurrence was significantly shorter after discontinuation of mADM. There were only minor differences in depression severity.
Our findings suggest an increased risk of relapse/recurrence in patients withdrawing from mADM after MBCT.
Background: Screening can increase detection of clinically relevant depressive symptoms, but screen-positive persons are not necessarily willing to accept a subsequent unsolicited treatment offer. Our objective was to explore limiting and motivating factors in accepting an offer to join a “coping with depression” course, and perceived needs among persons aged ≥75 years who screened positive for depressive symptoms in general practice.
Methods: In a randomized controlled trial, in which 101 persons who had screened positive for depressive symptoms were offered a “coping with depression” course, a sample of 23 persons were interviewed, of whom five (22%) accepted the treatment offer. Interview transcripts were coded independently by two researchers.
Results: All five individuals who accepted a place on the course felt depressed and/or lonely and had positive expectations about the course. The main reasons for declining to join the course were: not feeling depressed, or having negative thoughts about the course effect, concerns about group participation, or about being too old to change and learn new things. Although perceived needs to relieve depressive symptoms largely matched the elements of the course, most of those who had been screened were not (yet) prepared to accept an intervention offer. Many expressed the need to discuss this treatment decision with their general practitioner.
Conclusions: Although the unsolicited treatment offer closely matched the perceived needs of people screening positive for depressive symptoms, only those who combined feelings of being depressed or lonely with positive expectations about the offered course accepted it. Treatment should perhaps be more individually tailored to the patient's motivational stage towards change, a process in which general practitioners can play an important role.
Background: This study presents a new questionnaire to assess schema modes: the Schema Mode Inventory (SMI). Method: First, the construction of the short SMI (118 items) was described. Second, the psychometric properties of this short SMI were assessed. More specifically, its factor structure, internal reliability, inter-correlations between the subscales, test-retest reliability and monotonically increase of the modes were tested. This was done in a sample of N = 863 non-patients, Axis I and Axis II patients. Results: Results indicated a 14-factor structure of the short SMI, acceptable internal consistencies of the 14 subscales (Cronbach α's from .79 to .96), adequate test-retest reliability and moderate construct validity. Certain modes were predicted by a combination of the severity of Axis I and II disorders, while other modes were mainly predicted by Axis II pathology. Conclusions: The psychometric results indicate that the short SMI is a valuable measure that can be of use for mode assessment in SFT.
Many people suffer from subthreshold and mild panic disorder and are at
risk of developing more severe panic disorder.
This study (trial registration: ISRCTN33407455) was conducted to evaluate
the effectiveness of an early group intervention based on
cognitive–behavioural principles to reduce panic disorder
Participants with subthreshold or mild panic disorder were recruited from
the general population and randomised to the intervention
(n = 109) or a waiting-list control group
(n = 108). The course was offered by 17 community
mental health centres.
In the early intervention group, 43/109 (39%) participants presented with
a clinically significant change on the Panic Disorder Severity Scale–Self
Report (PDSS–SR) v. 17/108 (16%) in the control group
(odds ratio (OR) for favourable treatment response 3.49, 95% CI
1.77–6.88, P = 0.001). The course also had a positive
effect on DSM–IV panic disorder status (OR = 1.96, 95% CI=1.05–3.66,
P = 0.037). The PDSS–SR symptom reduction was also
substantial (between-group standardised mean difference of 0.68). The
effects were maintained at 6-month follow-up.
People presenting with subthreshold and mild panic disorder benefit from
this brief intervention.
Schema-focused therapy (SFT) and transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP)
for borderline personality disorder were recently compared in a
randomised multicentre trial.
To assess the societal cost-effectiveness of SFT v. TFP in treating
borderline personality disorder.
Costs were assessed by interview. Health-related quality of life was
measured using EQ-5D. Outcomes were costs per recovered patient (recovery
assessed with the Borderline Personality Disorder Severity Index) and
costs per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY).
Mean 4-year bootstrapped costs were $37826 for SFT and $46 795 for TFP
(95% uncertainty interval for difference −21 775 to 3546); QALYs were
2.15 for SFT and 2.27 for TFP (95% UI −0.51 to 0.28). The percentages of
patients who recovered were 52% and 29% respectively. The SFT
intervention was less costly and more effective than TFP (dominant), for
recovery; it saved $90457 for one QALY loss.
Despite the initial slight disadvantage in QALYs, there is a high
probability that compared with TFP, SFT is a cost-effective treatment for
borderline personality disorder.
Self-harm by young people is occurring with increasing frequency. Conventional in-patient and out-patient treatment has yet to be proved efficacious.
To investigate the efficacy of a short cognitive-behavioural therapy intervention with 90 adolescents and adults who had recently engaged in self-harm.
Participants (aged 15–35 years) were randomly assigned to treatment as usual plus the intervention, or treatment as usual only. Assessments were completed at baseline and at 3 months, 6 months and 9 months follow-up.
Patients who received cognitive-behavioural therapy in addition to treatment as usual were found to have significantly greater reductions in self-harm, suicidal cognitions and symptoms of depression and anxiety, and significantly greater improvements in self-esteem and problem-solving ability, compared with the control group.
These findings extend the evidence that a time-limited cognitive-behavioural intervention is effective for patients with recurrent and chronic self-harm.
Acute tryptophan depletion transiently induces symptoms in those with remitted depression. The behavioural specificity is uncertain, however. Recently, symptom provocation studies have become controversial, particularly in the USA.
To assess the specificity of acute tryptophan depletion. To investigate systematically the subjective experiences of those taking part in a symptom provocation study.
Twenty individuals with remitted depression underwent acute tryptophan depletion in a double-blind, crossover trial. Psychiatric symptoms and self-schemata relevant to depression were assessed. The quality of the informed consent procedure and subjective experiences were also evaluated.
Acute tryptophan depletion induced a specific depressive response. The effects were more pronounced in females than in males. Participants were quite satisfied with the informed consent procedure. They had understood that this was a fundamental research project and personal benefits were not expected. However, some participants still found it a positive experience.
Acute tryptophan depletion is a suitable model of vulnerability to depression, from both a scientific and an ethical perspective.
The aim of this study was to develop and evaluate the feasibility of a cognitive behavioural treatment for unexplained chest pain (UCP), based on the cognitive model of UCP. Ten patients were treated. The diagnosis had been made by a cardiologist two years before the start of treatment. The treatment incorporated breathing and relaxation training, identifying and challenging beliefs about the cause of UCP, behavioural experiments and problem solving for social problems. Patients improved significantly with regard to intensity and duration of chest pain, anxiety and functional limitations. Moreover, the reduction of scores for fear of bodily sensations and of credibility ratings of idiosyncratic disease related negative automatic thoughts was significant. The changes in scores for the inclination to interpret bodily sensations catastrophically almost reached the level of significance. These results suggests that therapy results may be cognitively mediated.
The aims of this study were to examine the construct validity of a cognitive behavioural treatment model for medically unexplained physical symptoms and to examine potential predictors of treatment outcome. In concordance with the treatment model we used, the extent of hypochondriacal cognitions and psychological distress at baseline appeared to be associated. Change in hypochondriacal cognitions was related to change in psychological distress. The extent of hypochondriacal cognitions after treatment was predictive of the level of psychological distress at one year follow-up. The only baseline variable that predicted a negative treatment outcome was illness behaviour.
The aim of the study was to develop a cognitive behavioural treatment model for medically unexplained physical symptoms and assess its feasibility and effect in a small sample of patients. This study was the first step in the realization of a randomized controlled trial. The study population consisted of consecutive patients presenting at a general medical outpatient clinic, whose symptoms could not be explained by objective abnormal findings. The treatment was based on a general model of the disorder, consisting of the physical symptoms, the patient's attribution and perceived control and the cognitive, behavioural, physical and social consequences. It incorporated record keeping concerning physical symptoms and emotions, identification of cognitions about the symptoms, challenging dysfunctional thoughts and behavioural experiments. At 6–months follow-up, four of the five treated patients were improved with regard to frequency and intensity of the symptoms, psychological distress and functional impairment. The improvement was sustained at 1–year follow-up.
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