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Comparing the recommendations of two recently published national clinical practice guidelines for depression, this editorial highlights the concordance of advice concerning the selection and sequencing of therapies. Lifestyle and psychological interventions feature prominently and there is broad agreement regarding medication choice and optimisation strategies. The guidelines are therefore a useful resource.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is recommended in treatment guidelines as an efficacious therapy for treatment-resistant depression. However, it has been associated with loss of autobiographical memory and short-term reduction in new learning.
To provide clinically useful guidelines to aid clinicians in informing patients regarding the cognitive side-effects of ECT and in monitoring these during a course of ECT, using complex data.
A Committee of clinical and academic experts from Australia and New Zealand met to the discuss the key issues pertaining to ECT and cognitive side-effects. Evidence regarding cognitive side-effects was reviewed, as was the limited evidence regarding how to monitor them. Both issues were supplemented by the clinical experience of the authors.
Meta-analyses suggest that new learning is impaired immediately following ECT but that group mean scores return at least to baseline by 14 days after ECT. Other cognitive functions are generally unaffected. However, the finding of a mean score that is not reduced from baseline cannot be taken to indicate that impairment, particularly of new learning, cannot occur in individuals, particularly those who are at greater risk. Therefore, monitoring is still important. Evidence suggests that ECT does cause deficits in autobiographical memory. The evidence for schedules of testing to monitor cognitive side-effects is currently limited. We therefore make practical recommendations based on clinical experience.
Despite modern ECT techniques, cognitive side-effects remain an important issue, although their nature and degree remains to be clarified fully. In these circumstances it is useful for clinicians to have guidance regarding what to tell patients and how to monitor these side-effects clinically.
The term ‘mood stabiliser’ is ill-defined and lacks clinical utility. We propose a framework to evaluate medications and effectively communicate their mood stabilising properties – their acute and prophylactic efficacy across the domains of mania and depression. The standardised framework provides a common definition to facilitate research and clinical practice.
Declaration of interest
The Treatment Algorithm Group (TAG) was supported logistically by Servier who provided financial assistance with travel and accommodation for those TAG members travelling interstate or overseas to attend the meeting in Sydney (held on 18 November 2017). None of the committee were paid to participate in this project and Servier have not had any input into the content, format or outputs from this project.
A complete course of psychotherapy provided extensive information about natural speech patterns of a male psychiatrist and a female patient. Contrary to assertions of the deferential function of tag questions, the patient's use of this form increased as she gained in self-confidence and improved her psychological adjustment. Qualitative analysis of the type, antecedents, and consequences of tag questions in sessions at the beginning and end of the therapy shows how the patient's use of the form reflects her growing independence. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of verbal interaction offer complementary benefits, and a two-stage research method is advocated. (Psychotherapeutic discourse, tag questions, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, psychotherapy process)
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