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Better than we think: Is the treatment of depressed patients more effective than we think?

BACKGROUND: Most studies of depression treatment rely on measures of symptom severity to evaluate outcome. We hypothesized that many patients would consider themselves to have benefitted significantly from treatment despite not being considered a responder according to a measure of depression symptom severity (ie, 50% reduction in symptom score).

METHODS: In our study, 854 patients with major depressive disorder completed the Remission from Depression Questionnaire, a self-report measure that assesses several constructs patients consider to be relevant for assessing treatment outcome. At discharge, patients completed the Patient Global Rating of Improvement (PGI) to gauge effectiveness of treatment.

RESULTS: Less than 40% of patients were responders on the depressive symptom subscale, whereas two-thirds of the sample were PGI responders. Among patients who were PGI responders but nonresponders on the depression symptoms scale, more than one-half were responders on at least 1 of 4 nonsymptom domains (functioning, quality of life, coping ability, positive mental health).

CONCLUSIONS: A patient-centered approach to evaluating outcome goes beyond an assessment of symptoms. When viewed from a broader perspective, the results of our study suggest that patients with depression benefit more from treatment than is suggested by only examining outcome from a symptom-based perspective.

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