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Antidepressant Use Climbs as Talk Therapy Rates Drop - But Is Mindfulness the Key?
A new study reports that more people are seeking treatment for their depression nowadays than they did ten years earlier – clearly a good thing. A slight problem, however, may be a change in the type of treatment people are seeking, with slightly more patients turning to antidepressants than conventional talk therapy.
Previous literature had reported that between 1987 and 1997, the portion of people in the US seeking treatment for their depression rose greatly, from 0.73% to 2.33%; among these patients, antidepressant use jumped over the same years from 37% to 74%. Talk therapy, in turn, fell from 71% to 60%. According to the study, the large rise in antidepressant use was likely to do the increasing popularity in selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Zoloft® and Prozac®.
In the current study, the researchers looked at data from two major surveys on depression, the first in 1998 and the second in 2007. They found that the rate of people seeking treatment for depression overall rose from 2.37% to 2.55% (from 6.5 million to 7.8 million). Though this is a nice rise in treatment rates, it’s still is a much smaller jump than in the previous decade. There was a small rise in antidepressant use, but a larger decline in talk therapy. From this study, it seems that more people are turning to medications than to conventional therapy, which is unfortunate, since most research shows that a combination of the two methods is the most effective way to fight depression.
On the other hand, a study in the same journal shows that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is at least as effective at helping people maintain remission from their depression. MBCT teaches a person to accept his or her thoughts without judgment (i.e., being mindful) as well as to learn new ways to deal with the (depressive) thought patterns and feelings from which they’re trying to free themselves. After the participants had achieved remission by using antidepressants, one group of patients stayed on their medications, another group had their medications gradually replaced by placebo, and a third group received MBCT as their medications were tapered off.
After 18 months of the respective treatments, 38% of the people in the MBCT group relapsed into depression, vs. 46% of those in the medication group, and 60% in the placebo group. These results are extremely encouraging for people who have successfully gotten out of their depression but do not wish to continue with medication.
The studies show that not only are more people seeking treatment for their depression, but there are alternative ways to do so. It’s important to talk to your mental healthcare provider about the various ways to treat depression, especially to find the method that is right for you.
The first study was carried out by researchers at Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute; the second was executed by a team at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. Both studies were published in the December issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.
December 15, 2010
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