Relapse Happens in Half of Teens Treated for Depression

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Treatment for teenage depression can be effective for most teens however, in nearly half of all cases the condition comes back, especially among female patients, researchers from Duke University report in an article published in Archives of General Psychiatry.

About 20 percent of teens will experience teen depression before they reach adulthood. Teen depression can affect a teen regardless of gender, social background, income level, race, or school or other achievements, though teenage girls report suffering from depression more often than teenage boys, males are less likely to seek help or recognize that they suffer from depression.

The researchers carried out a follow-up of 86 boys and 110 girls average age around 14 years, who participated in a previous randomized trial of four different treatments for major depression i. e. anti-depressant fluoxetine, (Prozac); cognitive behavioral therapy; a combination of Prozac plus cognitive behavioral therapy; or a placebo.

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The study found that 47% of the teenagers in the original study treated for 12 weeks suffered a relapse, That was regardless of the treatment group they were in, including how well they had been two years after the study.

Girls at 58% were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders than boys at 33%. John Curry, a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University and the lead author of the study said the findings point to the "need to develop treatments that will prevent recurrence of second depression". Curry says girls are more at risk, as they have more anxiety and generally suffer from more anxiety disorders than boys.

"We've known for a long time that people are going to revert back to depression -- that 50 percent would relapse even though they had recovered. I don't think that surprised many people," said Keith Young, vice chair for research in the department of psychiatry and behavioral science at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. Young was not involved with the study.

"Evidently, we don’t have treatments that totally prevent reoccurrence. They may reduce it, but they don’t totally prevent it, by any means," Curry said. "It would probably be helpful for teenagers and parents to learn how to monitor when symptoms are starting to come up again, so they can resume treatment at that point."

Despite the high reoccurrence rate, Curry noted that nearly all the participants recovered after two years, which is "very good news," he said. "I think clinicians can convey that kind of hopeful message to teenagers and their parents," he said.

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