According to a new study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, patients suffering from major depression view the remission of depression differently than their doctors do. The research shows that while doctors view remission from a purely symptomatic perspective, patients believe they are in remission when their quality of life changes for the better.
“Current standards for treating major depressive disorder recommend that achieving remission should be considered the principal goal of treatment,” says Dr. Mark Zimmerman, M.D., director of outpatient psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital, who conducted the research. “But recent studies have shown that patients and clinicians view remission differently. To determine the best approach to achieving a level of remission satisfactory to the patient, we developed the Remission from Depression Questionnaire to measure the components of depression that patients feel are most important.”
The questionnaire basically asks patients about their depression symptoms and how they are coping with them. Zimmerman used this questionnaire to determine if it was a reliable way to evaluate how patients define their remission. What the research showed is that patients view their remission in terms of how “happy” they are, whereas doctors look purely at the presence (or lack thereof) of the symptoms themselves. However, Zimmerman notes that more studies will have to be conducted to verify these results.
“More work must be done to broaden the definition of remission,” Zimmerman said. “Our patients need to feel supported, they need to feel confident about their remission. Therefore, it’s imperative that clinicians and patients work more closely together to more clearly define remission in order to achieve the best outcomes for these patients. If some of the symptoms appear to be alleviated, but the patient is still suffering from a poor sense of well-being and low life satisfaction, then there is still more work to do.”
While doctors continue to view depression remission from a symptomatic perspective, that could prove to be harmful for many patients who are undergoing antidepressant treatments for the condition. Since many patients will still experience sporadic depression symptoms like anxiety even after they feel their depression is in remission, doctors may view that differently and continue to prescribe harmful medications like Paxil even after the depression symptoms have subsided for the most part. This exposes patients to the potentially dangerous side effects of the drugs like violent and suicidal thoughts and behavior.