DALLAS - Aug. 4, 2005 - Three years ago, Terry Tuton was laidoff from his job as project manager at a large technology firm, leavinghim limited insurance coverage at a time when he was suffering fromoverpowering feelings of hopelessness and depression - and not for thefirst time in his life. Overwhelmed and unsure where to turn, hehappened upon a small advertisement seeking participants for a UTSouthwestern Medical Center research study on recurrent depression.
Today,the 51-year-old real estate agent credits his participation in theclinical trial - which focuses on cognitive therapy - with turning hislife around.
"When I started the study, the depression was assevere as any I've suffered in my life," Mr. Tuton said. "I was at thepoint that I didn't know what to do about it any more or how to cope."
Sincecompleting the study last March, Mr. Tuton has learned how to betterunderstand and combat his disease - major depressive disorder (MDD) -as well as how to pinpoint behaviors and thoughts that often triggerthe depression's downward cycle. Just like patients who suffer fromother physical ailments such as migraines or high blood pressure,depressed individuals can learn to recognize warning signs ofdepression and develop action plans to help prevent it, shorten it orlessen its impact.
"It was remarkable. The study changed mylife," Mr. Tuton said. "It took me 50 years to figure this out. Youcan't imagine how different I feel now, knowing that there is nevergoing to be that hopelessness again. I feel positive about my life,probably for the first time."
Between 50 percent and 85 percentof people with MDD experience a relapse or recurrence within two yearsafter recovering from a depressive episode. Past research suggests thatabout 50 percent to 85 percent of these patients improve when treatedwith cognitive therapy, a "talking" therapy that focuses on changingnegative patterns of thinking and developing coping skills.
UTSouthwestern's current study offers 16 to 20 sessions of cognitivetherapy over a 12-week period, with some patients then randomlyassigned for additional "booster" sessions of cognitive therapy,antidepressant medication or pill placebos.
"The purpose of ourresearch is to evaluate which treatments can keep patients well for thelongest intervals," said Dr. Robin Jarrett, professor of psychiatry atUT Southwestern. "Until there is a cure for depression, we willcontinue to develop and identify treatments which prevent relapse andrecurrence, and promote and sustain remission and recovery. For manyindividuals, cognitive therapy can have a preventive effect."
Principalinvestigator for the clinical trial, Dr. Jarrett has designed anddirected numerous studies examining the effectiveness of interventionsfor depression, including cognitive therapy compared to or used withantidepressant medications for treating the initial onset of thedisease, as well as future occurrences.
For Mr. Tuton, cognitivetherapy helped him track and identify behaviors he could try to change,such as his desire for perfection. "Everything I did had to be perfect.And because it couldn't be, I would beat myself up over it, and itwould start a cycle of depression. Learning that fact was key inbreaking that cycle. I learned that I only have to do things as well asI can, not perfectly."
Mr. Tuton says he doesn't believe he willever be completely cured of depression - a disease he suffered even asa child - but he does now know how to fight it. "When I suffer fromdepression now, it's much, much shorter in duration and nowhere near asdeep as it was. I know how to combat it and what to do.
"Peoplewho don't suffer from depression don't understand. They think it's amatter of 'sucking up' and getting over it, or looking on the brightside or keeping a stiff upper lip," he said.
UT Southwestern isone of two sites recruiting more than 500 individuals for the researchstudy funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health.Eligible participants must be ages 18 to 70, have experienced at leasttwo episodes of MDD and not currently be under psychiatric treatment.They also must have no current history of alcohol or drug dependence.
Alleligible participants will receive cognitive therapy at no cost. Somewill then receive additional cognitive therapy, medication or pillplacebo, also at no cost. For more information, call 214-648-5351.
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