Clinical importance of long-term antidepressant treatment

R. M.A. Hirschfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Background: Depression, which only a few decades ago was considered to be a short-term illness requiring short-term treatment, is now recognised as a recurrent, sometimes chronic, long-term illness. Aims: To highlight the clinical importance of long-term antidepressant therapy in the treatment of depression. Method: The current literature was reviewed to examine the relationship between duration of antidepressant therapy and efficacy. Results: Approximately one-third to a half of patients successfully stabilised in acute-phase treatment will relapse if medication is not sustained throughout the continuation period. Only 10-15% will relapse if medication is continued. For maintenance-phase therapy, approximately 60% of patients at risk will experience a recurrent episode of depression within 1 year if untreated, whereas those who continue in treatment will have a recurrence rate of between 10% and 30%. Conclusions: Risk of relapse and recurrence of depression can be significantly reduced if adequate continuation and maintenance therapy durations are achieved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)s4-s8
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Issue numberSUPPL. 42
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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