Clinical characteristics of outpatients with chronic major depression
A cross-sectional evaluation of 243 unipolar, nonpsychotic outpatients with major depression was conducted. All subjects were diagnosed by RDC with SADS-L structured interviews. Diagnoses included RDC primary/secondary, RDC endogenous/nonendogenous and Winokur's family-history subtypes. Symptom severity was assessed by the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. Chronic depression was defined as the current episode of major depression lasting at least 2 years, corresponding to DSM-III-R and -IV criteria. Patients with chronic depression (n = 64) were compared with those with nonchronic depression (n = 179). Chronicity was not related to gender, symptom severity, prior length of illness, age at onset of illness, RDC endogenous/nonendogenous, RDC primary/secondary or Winokur's family-history subtypes. Those with chronic depression were older and had fewer major depressive episodes than the nonchronic group. That the chronic group had fewer total episodes of depression than the nonchronic group, but a similar age at onset, is consistent with the notion that patients in a current chronic episode have characteristically longer depressive episodes throughout the course of their illness. Those with chronic episodes may be subject to psychological, biological and/or sociocultural factors that preclude an earlier episode remission for these individuals.
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