A study of adolescents who had a major depressive disorder found that nearly all recovered from their episode after treatment. But within five years, nearly half of them had relapsed, and females were at much higher risk of another major episode, researchers at Duke University Medical Center found.
"We need to learn why females in this age range have higher chances of descending into another major depression after they have made a recovery," said John Curry, PhD, lead author of the study and professor in the Duke Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
The study was published in this month's issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.
The current study was a follow-up investigation of 86 male and 110 female adolescents who had participated in the Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study, a short-term depression treatment study of 12 weeks.
Major depression is a mood disorder characterized by depressed mood; loss of interest, disruptions in appetite, sleep, energy; poor concentration; worthlessness; and suicidal thoughts or behavior. Adolescents must have at least five of these symptoms for a length of time to be diagnosed with major depression.
In the study, the adolescents were all at least moderately to severely depressed and the average length of time they had been depressed before they started treatment was about 40 weeks. The depression had also interfered with their school work, family life or their friendships.
After the initial 12-week treatment, the subjects were then followed for five years by the current study.
The followup study found that 96.4 percent of the participants had recovered for at least eight weeks after short-term treatment. Those who responded to the short-term treatment rather than partially or not at all were significantly more likely to recover by the two-year follow-up mark.
The most effective treatment was a combination of the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) with cognitive behavioral therapy.
Read more about the study, including why girls may be at risk for a second depression, on DukeHealth.org.