No one way to treat depression - NZ study

  • 03/11/2017
The subtypes are broken down by the original triggers of the depressive episode. Photo credit: Getty

A new study could revolutionise the way depression is diagnosed and treated through a theory that separates depression into 12 subtypes.

The authors of the study, including University of Auckland professor Severi Luoto, say it could signal a major overhaul of how depression is diagnosed and treated.

"The evidence that major depressive disorder is a group of separate syndromes comes from the observation that patients not only have many hundreds of unique symptom profiles but many of the symptoms often have opposite features," Mr Luoto said.

"With the help of the 12 depression subtypes, it will be easier to find more effective treatments for depression," Professor Markus Rantala from the University of Turku, Finland says.

The subtypes are broken down by the original triggers of the depressive episode which the authors believe will help find the best customised treatment for the patient.

The 'chronic stress' subtype would require cognitive therapy or medication whereas the 'loneliness' depression subtype would focus on reducing that loneliness.

Depression is now the leading causes of disability worldwide caused by our modern lifestyles, a combination of high energy diets and inactive lifestyles, Mr Luoto said.

"Chronic clinical depression is what we could call an evolutionary novelty that arises from a mismatch between our current environment and our ancestral environment," he said.

Mr Luoto believes that future depression diagnosis should employ both medical and psychological techniques, including a blood test to reveal inflammation and hormone levels and an in-depth interview to establish symptom patterns.

The 12 subtypes of depression are induced by:

  • infection, in which sickness behaviour to combat pathogens and parasites may lead to symptoms such as loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, anhedonia, impaired concentration;
  • long-term stress which is known to activate the immune system, causing an increase in proinflammatory cytokine levels that influence mood;
  • loneliness;
  • traumatic experience;
  • hierarchy conflict where events such as unemployment, exclusion from a social group, bullying at school or professional hierarchy conflicts may trigger a depressive episode;
  • grief;
  • romantic rejection;
  • postpartum events which lead to depression in 10-15 percent of women;
  • the season, where seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects the individual at the same time each year;
  • chemicals such as alcohol and cocaine;
  • somatic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, migraine, epilepsy, stroke and traumatic brain injury;
  • starvation, which is known to reduce mood and, when prolonged, can lead to apathy and social withdrawal.

If you wish to talk to someone about mental illness or domestic violence, you can call Lifeline on 0800 543 354, the Depression Helpline on 0800 111 757 or the National Telehealth Service on 1737.

NZN / Newshub.