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J Affect Disord. 2012 Jan;136(1-2):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.08.028. Epub 2011 Sep 23.

Two-year outcomes in first-episode psychotic depression the McLean-Harvard First-Episode Project.

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  • 1University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, TX 78229, USA.



Early assessment can guide accurate diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment-planning for patients with major mental illnesses. Longitudinal studies in psychotic depression from onset are rare, encouraging the present study.


We followed 56 DSM-IV MDD patients with psychotic features prospectively and systematically to assess course and predictors of operationally-defined syndromal remission, syndromal recovery, symptomatic remission, functional recovery, and new episodes, and to evaluate diagnostic stability.


Among 49/56 cases followed for ≥2 years, 59% retained the initial diagnosis and most achieved syndromal remission (86%) and recovery (84%); 58% remitted symptomatically, and only 35% (17/49) recovered functionally. Syndromal recovery was earlier following subacute onset, lower initial depression scores, and lack of moodincongruent psychotic features. Within 2 years, 45% (22/49) experienced new episodes - earlier with younger onset and higher CGI scores. DSM diagnosis changed in 41%, to bipolar (33%), or schizoaffective disorders (12%), which followed early mania-like or schizophrenia-like features, respectively.


Within 2 years of first-hospitalizations, 41% of patients initially diagnosed with psychotic-depression met criteria for DSM-IV bipolar or schizoaffective disorders. Of the 59% retaining the initial diagnosis for 2 years, nearly half experienced new episodes, 42% remained symptomatic, and two-thirds failed to regain their own prior functional status.

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