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Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1998 Dec;98(6):432-6.

Are in-patient depressives more often of the melancholic subtype? Danish University Antidepressant Group.

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Department of Psychiatry, Odense University Hospital, Odense University, Denmark.


In contrast to out-patients, hospitalized depressed patients have been reported to respond better to tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) than to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and moclobemide. This may be due to differences in the type of patients included in the trials. The hypothesis that hospitalized depressed patients have a different symptom profile to out-patients was tested by comparing 352 patients from three in-patient studies with 581 patients from three out-patient studies conducted in Denmark during the period 1980-1992. All patients had major depression and were evaluated using the Hamilton Depression Scale. The full version of the Newcastle Diagnostic Rating Scale (1965) was applied to 443 of the patients. In-patients were characterized by higher scores on the items 'depressed mood', 'suicidal impulses', 'work and interest (reduced)', 'retardation', 'distinct quality of depression', 'weight loss', 'feeling of guilt' and 'nihilistic delusions', and by lower scores on the items 'somatic complaints', 'hypochondriasis', 'psychological stressors' and 'anxiety'. In total, 76% of the in-patients and 40% of the out-patients had melancholic/endogenous depression. These findings may explain why TCAs are superior to SSRIs and moclobemide in hospitalized patients, since other data indicate that TCAs seem to be the most effective treatment for the melancholic/endogenous subtype.

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