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Chronic depression requires intensive approach, reports the Harvard Mental Health Letter

December 1, 2009

Chronic depression requires more intensive treatment than a single episode of depression, in part because it lasts longer and tends to be more severe, according to the December 2009 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. In addition, some type of maintenance therapy may be needed to prevent relapse.

Depression is categorized as chronic when symptoms last at least two years. Clinical trials have shown that two types of antidepressants—tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)—are equally effective for treating chronic depression. Between 45% and 55% of the study participants responded to antidepressant treatment, and no single drug emerged as better than the others. But only 25% to 35% of patients with chronic depression were able to achieve remission from the first drug they took, at least in the short term.

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