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Patients unresponsive to antidepressants helped by CBT

Research into depression has shown that medical professionals should turn to cognitive behavioural therapy to treat patients who are not being helped by antidepressants.

The randomised trial by academics at the University of Bristol found that those who were not responding to antidepressant therapy had triple the chance of recovery if they were given CBT on top of their existing treatment.

The report, which was published in The Lancet’s Online First, may help the two out of three depression patients who find antidepressants are not completely effective.

Researcher Nicola Wiles said that before the trial, there was nothing to aid health professionals in deciding what course of treatment to pursue for depressed patients who found standard drugs ineffective.

The study involved 469 people with depression aged between 18 and 75 who had taken an antidepressant for at least six weeks without responding to the treatment. The subjects, who were registered with 73 GP practices based all over the country, either carried on taking the antidepressants or they were given CBT in addition to the drugs.

Six months after the start of the trial, 46% of those taking part in CBT said their depression had improved and their symptoms had reduced by at least 50%. This was more than double the 22% who reported the same level of improvement and had been treated with antidepressants alone.

Those in the group which received CBT also said they were less anxious and they were more likely to recover from the depression, at least temporarily.

Wiles said CBT was only available to the wealthy in many parts of the world and it was often not offered even in the UK.

She added that 75% of patients with depression in the US had not been given any sort of psychological treatment in the last year.

Readers' comments (5)

  • I am a sufferer of depression and someone who found that antidepressants didn't help. My GP wouldn't refer me for CBT so this research is excellent. Definitely a step in the right direction as i found there aren't many treatments for depression and anxiety other than CBT. So the more research into it, the better!

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  • Katie Sutton

    Antidepressants shouldn't be seen as a method of coping in and of themselves - for some people, they will be enough, but not everyone. They should instead be used to help a patient manage their symptoms whilst they attend CBT sessions and similar to deal with the underlying problems.

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  • It might be useful for the writer of the article to mention the title of the research paper they are presenting.

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  • Are people really that surprised that medication on its own is not as affective as medication and a therapeutic approach?

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  • Mark Simmonds | 14-Dec-2012 8:02 am

    of course some are surprised. the expect a magic potion or pill from their doctors which will cure all when all they really need is the kind attention of another human being and somebody to talk to.

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