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Recent research: six studies on depression – bereavement, pregnancy, bipolar disorder, suicide, & stress in hospital staff

Five of these six studies are from last month's American Journal of Psychiatry.  Kendler et al discuss the many similarities and only occasional differences between bereavement-related and other life event-related depression - an issue explored further in Maj's editorial.  Li et al show that depression in pregnancy (exacerbated further by stressful life events and obesity) increases the risk of preterm delivery.  Miklowitz reviews research on the value of adjunctive psychotherapy for bipolar disorder sufferers (already taking medication) and discusses the various ways it can be helpful.  Oquendo et al (in a freely viewable editorial) argue that suicidal behaviour should be placed on a "separate axis" in the next version of the DSM diagnostic system.  Finally Vertanen et al, in an interesting study, demonstrate that increased hospital overcrowding - measured by bed occupancy rates - is associated with increased use of antidepressants by hospital staff.

Kendler, K. S., J. Myers, et al. (2008). "Does Bereavement-Related Major Depression Differ From Major Depression Associated With Other Stressful Life Events?" Am J Psychiatry 165(11): 1449-1455.  [Abstract/Full Text]  

Depression assessment

I thank you God for most this amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of the trees, and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.

- e e cummings

Depression assessment scales come in two basic forms - interviewer/clinician rated and sufferer/patient rated.  As stated in the background information on the IDS/QIDS questionnaires (see below) "There are several accepted clinician rated and patient self report measures of depressive symptoms. The most commonly used clinician rated scales are the 17, 21, 24, 28, and 31 item versions of the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) (Hamilton 1960, 1967), and the 10-item Montgomery-Asberg Scale (Montgomery and Asberg 1979). The most frequently used self-reports include the 13, and 21 item version of the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) (Beck et al. 1961), the BDI-II (Beck et al. 1996), the Zung Depression Rating Scale (Zung 1965), the Carroll Rating Scale (CRS) (Carroll et al. 1981), and the Patient Health Questionnaire - 9 (PHQ-9) (Kroenke et al.

Diagnosis of psychological disorders

“ To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable. To be certain is to be merely ridiculous. ” - Goethe

Making a formal psychological diagnosis can be a mixed blessing. It has several potential advantages. If many of my symptoms can be accurately grouped under a specific psychological diagnosis, it may well help to understand what is happening, to clarify the likely time course of my symptoms, and to choose treatments that have the best chance of being effective. It's worth noting that often people suffer from more than one psychological disorder at the same time - this is called comorbidity and it is common.

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