Mild Depression Often Worsens Without Treatment
< Feb. 10, 2010 > -- Well over half of the people with mild depression fall deeper into depression over time if they don't receive care for the condition, say researchers in a new study.
Researchers from Columbia University looked at 348 adults diagnosed with mild depression by primary care physicians. They weren't treated for depression at the time of the visit or during the previous year.
The untreated patients with mild depressive symptoms also had poorer social functioning and were six times more likely to get emergency psychiatric care than people without depression, according to the study. Some 62 percent experienced major depression four years after their initial diagnosis.
Substance Abuse, Ill Health May Accompany Depression
The study, in the February issue of Psychiatric Services, also found that the diagnosis of mild depression predicted an alcohol or drug use disorder at the follow-up four years later, as well as poor or fair emotional and physical health.
The study's conclusions are important because other recent studies have indicated treatment may not particularly benefit patients with mild depression, says the study's lead author, Myrna M. Weissman, a Columbia University professor.
"These findings come in the wake of intensive focus by the media on a study reported in January, which showed that depressed patients with mild symptoms did not do any better with medication than with placebo, suggesting that patients with mild depression don't need treatment," explains Weissman. "Our findings suggest that mildly depressed, untreated patients do not have a benign course of illness."
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When to Get Help for Depression
Occasional blues are normal, but if low mood interferes with daily activities like going to work or school, taking care of children, or relationships, you may have depression. Symptoms include:
If you experience one or more of these symptoms for longer than two weeks, see your doctor. Depression is very treatable, even when it's severe. If you are diagnosed with depression, your doctor may then refer you to a mental health professional. Psychotherapy and medication are the most common treatments.
Always consult your physician for more information.
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