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New Hope for People with Major Depression

Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D. Updated: Jun 5th 2008

road leading forwardA study published in the May edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry may provide hope to people suffering from a major depressive episode who worry that they are automatically doomed to a life of repeated depressive episodes. Study results suggested that approximately 1/2 of people experiencing major depression for the first time recover and have no further episodes later on. Only 35% of individuals studied experienced recurrent episodes of Major Depression.

This study, one of the few to take a long-term look at depression in the community (as opposed to studying people with more severe depression who are hospitalized), followed a large group of individuals (3481) in Baltimore, across 23 years.

Current results are consistent with other research, such as a study conducted in Sweden that followed 344 individuals who had a first episode of either major depression or a milder form of the illness. In the Swedish study, 60% of individuals in the community remained free of illness once they recovered from their depressive symptoms.

Unfortunately, there are no good predictors of who will recover and who will go on to develop additional episodes. However, there are several steps you can take help increase the likelihood that you remain "depression-free" in the future. First, continue to practice the skills and/or lifestyle changes that were successful. Getting enough rest, and exercise, as well as eating healthy meals, decreasing stress, and building in pleasurable activities is very important. Second, if your mood seems to take a downhill turn, or you start to slide back into unhelpful habits (negative thinking, isolating yourself from others, etc), make sure to schedule a "tune up" visit with your psychotherapist, or ramp up your use of self-help strategies that were useful in the past.

For more information about Major Depression and how to deal with symptoms, please visit our Depression Topic Center. To discuss your experiences with Depression with others who are coping with similar experiences, please visit our Online Support Community.



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