Women taking antidepressants may continue to feel a sense of hopelessness even while the drug is relieving their depressive state, say researchers from the University of Michigan Health System.
The study, in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, found that overall, patients' depression responded rapidly to medication, with 68 percent of their improvement occurring by the end of the first month, and 88 percent by three months. The patients experienced the majority of their improvement in several areas during this time period, including positive emotions, work functioning and social functioning. But with hopefulness, the improvement was much more gradual.
For many in the study, feelings of hopefulness did not improve until several weeks, or even months, after depressive symptoms lifted, says lead author James E. Aikens. "The finding suggests that some patients may become unduly pessimistic and stop adhering to an already-helpful therapy," he notes. This finding is troubling, he says, because hopelessness is a strong risk factor for suicide.
Patients may want to consider cognitive-behavioral strategies, such as identifying and challenge the pessimistic thoughts that usually accompany depression, and engaging in activities that may improve their mood, Aikens concludes.
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Source: University of Michigan Health System