Depression increasingly looks to researchers and clinicians like, say, a psychiatric version of bronchitis or a heart attack. Some people come down with a case of it, have it treated (or not), and it goes away. But for a great number of patients, it's a chronic condition that must be treated when it flares. And after depression's acute symptoms subside, many patients need to manage the disease -- to continue with some kind of treatment -- to reduce the likelihood of experiencing repeated bouts of mental suffering.
And yet, Americans diagnosed with depression have a highly conflicted relationship with the notion of ongoing depression care. As a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry this week carefully documents, more Americans are being diagnosed with depression (in 2007, 2.88% of the U.S. population got a diagnosis of depression -- up from 2.37% a decade before).
But fewer and fewer of those patients get any kind of psychotherapy (43.1%, down from 53.6% in 1998), despite the fact that most say that would be their preferred form of treatment. Meanwhile, the majority of depressed patients are put on antidepressant medication (75.3% in 2007, just a hair up from 73.8% a decade earlier). But more than half typically abandon those prescription drugs as soon as their worst symptoms disappear, if not sooner. More>>