Cognitive Therapy Plus Antidepressant Improves Depression Symptoms

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Cognitive therapy (CT) combined with taking an antidepressant leads to better outcomes than taking an antidepressant alone, though the effect appears limited only to patients suffering from severe depression that is not chronic.

Steven D. Hollon, PhD, of the Department of Psychology at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, and colleagues examined 452 adult outpatients with chronic or recurrent major depressive disorder (MDD), who were randomly assigned to antidepressant treatment only or CT combined with an antidepressant. Treatment was administered for up to 42 weeks until recovery.

Combined treatment enhanced the rate of recovery vs. treatment with an antidepressant alone (72.6% vs 62.5%; t451= 2.45; P=0.01; hazard ratio, 1.33; 95% C: 1.06-1.68; number needed to treat, 10; 95% CI: 5-72), the researchers reported in JAMA Psychiatry.  

However, those results were conditioned on severity and chronicity of the depression, such that the advantage for combined treatment was limited to patients with severe, nonchronic MDD (81.3% vs. 51.7%; n=146; t145=3.96; P=0.001; HR, 2.34; 95% CI, 1.54-3.57; NNT, 3; 95% CI, 2-5).

Patients with comorbid Axis II disorders took longer to recover than did patients without comorbid Axis II disorders regardless of the condition (P=0.01). Also, patients who received combined treatment reported fewer serious adverse events than did patients who received antidepressants alone (49 vs. 71; P=0.02), largely because they experienced less time in an MDD episode.

Patients' Relationship With Clinician Has Slight Impact on Outcomes
Patients' Relationship With Clinician Has Slight Impact on Outcomes

Antidepressant medication (ADM) is efficacious in the treatment of depression, but not all patients achieve remission and fewer still achieve recovery with ADM alone. The objective of the study is to determine the effects of combining cognitive therapy with ADM vs ADM alone on remission and recovery in major depressive disorder.

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