But these were all people who came to psychiatric attention at academic medical centers; they might have been sicker than most.
The newly reported study is consistent with some others, such as one from Sweden that followed 344 people from the community with a first episode of either major depression or a milder form of the illness, and found that, over many years, 60 percent remained free of illness once they recovered.
Several other prior studies found rates of depression recurrence in the 40 to 60 percent range.
So, in depression, there are grounds for seeing the glass as half full. Half of people recover and never experience the illness again.
Let us all strive to keep our eye on what is in the glass rather than what is not.
Obviously this is not easy to do for someone who is depressed. I am reminded of a psychiatrist whom we treated for depression on our inpatient Mood Disorders Service at Johns Hopkins. While gloomy about his condition and his prognosis, he was struck by the upbeat approach that our doctors and staff took towards him, calling us "militantly optimistic."
My response: "guilty as charged, but we don't see much use in being anything else."
Dr. James Potash is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Co-Director of the Mood Disorders Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. If you have questions or comments, please email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To participate in our genetic and clinical studies, call 1-877-MOODS-JH.