CNS Drugs

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 267–284 | Cite as

Defining and Measuring Functional

Recovery from Depression
  • Tracy L. Greer
  • Benji T. Kurian
  • Madhukar H. Trivedi
Review Article


Depression is associated with significant functional impairment and reduced quality of life. Disruptions occur both globally as well as in specific functional areas such as work, interpersonal relationships and cognitive function. From both a clinical and research perspective, much focus has been given to the resolution of symptoms associated with depression, while relatively little attention has been given to functional improvements. Definitions of remission in depression are most frequently based on achieving a cut-off score on clinical rating scales of depressive symptoms. Research in this area has sparsely included psychosocial function or health-related quality of life as a primary outcome measure in clinical trials. However, the need to fully understand the impact of depression and its treatments on functioning is great, given the existing evidence of the profound effect that depression has on function. Even mild depressive symptoms and subsyndromal depression result in functional impairment and reduced quality of life, and untreated residual depressive symptomatology can result in an increased likelihood for relapse of the fully symptomatic disorder (i.e. major depressive disorder). Therefore, clinicians and researchers alike need to broaden the focus of treatment to encompass not only the specific symptoms of depression, but the functional consequences as well.

Many tools have been developed to assess function and quality of life, both globally as well as within specific domains. In addition, the effect of residual symptoms associated with functional impairment (i.e. insomnia, fatigue, pain [somatic] symptoms and cognition) in depression, even independently of depressive symptoms, warrants evaluation and monitoring. Recommendations for evaluating functional outcomes include: (i) adequately assessing functional impairment; (ii) identifying and/or developing treatment plans that will target symptoms associated with functional impairments; and (iii) monitoring functional impairments and associated symptoms throughout the course of treatment. The development of treatments that specifically target improvements in functional impairments is needed, and may require the use of novel treatment strategies.



The authors would like to thank Eric Nestler, Lou and Ellen McGinley, Distinguished Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center as well as Carol A. Tamminga, M.D., Communities Foundation of Texas, Inc. Chair in Brain Science, and Interim Chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for administrative support. We would also like to thank Laura Cain and Shyma El Sayed for their assistance in preparing this manuscript.

No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review.

Tracy L. Greer has received grant support from the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression.

Madhukar H. Trivedi has been a consultant for Abbott Laboratories, Inc.; Akzo (Organon Pharmaceuticals Inc.); AstraZeneca; Bayer; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; Cephalon, Inc.; Cyberonics, Inc.; Eli Lilly & Company; Fabre-Kramer Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Forest Pharmaceuticals; GlaxoSmithKline; Janssen Pharmaceutica Products, LP; Johnson & Johnson PRD; Meade Johnson; Neuronetics; Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Pfizer, Inc.; Pharmacia & Upjohn; Sepracor; Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; VantagePoint; and Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories. He has served on speakers bureaus for Abdi Brahim; Akzo (Organon Pharmaceuticals Inc.); Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; Cephalon, Inc.; Cyberonics, Inc.; Forest Pharmaceuticals; GlaxoSmithKline; Janssen Pharmaceutica Products, LP; Eli Lilly & Company; Pharmacia & Upjohn; Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; and Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories. He has also received grant support from Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; Cephalon, Inc.; Corcept Therapeutics, Inc.; Cyberonics, Inc.; Eli Lilly & Company; Forest Pharmaceuticals; GlaxoSmithKline; Janssen Pharmaceutica; Merck; National Institute of Mental Health; National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression; Novartis; Pfizer Inc.; Pharmacia & Upjohn; Predix Pharmaceuticals; Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; and Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories.

Benji Kurian has received research grant support from Targacept, Inc. and National Institute of Health.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tracy L. Greer
    • 1
  • Benji T. Kurian
    • 1
  • Madhukar H. Trivedi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Texas Southwestern Medical CenterDallasUSA

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