Clinical Research

The successes of the MGH Depression Clinical and Research Program in the field of depression research have not only informed clinical practice, but have also contributed to the development of new standards of care.

The ongoing work of the MGH Depression Clinical and Research Program has, in many cases, defined Depression treatments for the field. Over the years a large group of experienced researchers as well as promising young trainees and junior faculty have gathered, generating countless clinical reports, pilot studies, and large controlled trials. The staff at the DCRP have successfully obtained significant funding from both the National Institute of Mental Health and industry sources. Currently, there are more than 20 ongoing studies at the DCRP.

Clinical Care

What to expect in the Clinical Program
The clinical program provides care outside of the research setting to people with depressive disorders. The program provides evaluation and follow-up care as well as some one-time consultations and second opinions to people whose depressions have failed to respond to multiple therapies. See Symptoms of Depression

How do I get an appointment with one of the doctors?
An appointment at the DCRP can be arranged by calling 617-726-8895, option 4, for an initial phone screen to determine whether this program is appropriate for you. In many cases, treatment studies provide an excellent option for prospective patients. If your case is appropriate, you will be matched to a provider by insurance panel and provider availability.

The program does not accept all insurances and the individual physicians vary from not accepting any insurance to accepting the full spectrum of insurances that the program participates in. If you do not have an insurance accepted by the program, you may elect to self-pay if your insurance allows it. Medicare, MassHealth products, Health Safety Net, Harvard Pilgrim, United Health Care and some Tufts Health plans that subcontract (carve out) their mental health benefits out do not allow this option. The program does not accept the Magellan carve-out.

Consultations

Many colleagues from all over the country and around the world consult with the DCRP about or directly refer some of their most difficult cases. The staff of the DCRP includes thirteen full-time pychiatrists, four psychologists, three research fellows, eight research coordinators, one program coordinator, one data analyst, one practice manager, and one patient service coordinator.

Alternative Treatments For Depression

Although "alternative" or natural medications have been used for thousands of years, the popularity of these medications worldwide, has been increasing dramatically over the last few years. Recently the NIH has recognized that up to 25% of people in the U.S. seek and obtain non-traditional treatments. Some of these medications, such as St. John’s Wort, Kava, Valerian, Ginkgo, and Black Cohosh are derived from plants and herbs. Other medications, such as melatonin and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) are natural hormones.

Additional therapeutics include vitamins, such as folic acid and vitamin B12; amino acid derivatives such as phenylethylamine; and omega-3 fatty acids such as docosahexanoic acid (DHA), which are found in animals and fish. Homeopathy and acupuncture are other popular alternative treatments. More and more of our patients now inquire about these treatments, and whether or not they might offer benefit. Natural medications represent a growing field in the pharmacology of mental disorders, and may eventually prove to be a valuable addition to the psychiatrist’s pharmacologic armamentarium.

At the DCRP, we recognize the need to be informed about available alternative treatments, as well as their risks and benefits. We also recognize the need for research exploring the efficacy and safety of these medications as treatments for depression, and are committed to conducting state of the art research in this field. If you are interested in learning more about alternative treatments, or in participating in one of our studies of alternative treatments for depression, please call us at 1-877-552-5837.

FundingSupport for the Depression program advances patient care and treatment, physician education, and insures that forward-looking research continues to improve outcomes. Learn more

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is a treatable illness that may involve an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Although depression can run in families, the direct causes of the illness are unclear. There is evidence to suggest that traumatic events, chronic stress, hormonal changes, or the presence of medical illness, psychiatric illness, substance abuse, or sleep disorders may contribute to the development of depression. Depression is associated with significant suffering, morbidity, mortality, and psychosocial functional impairment.

Patients who suffer from depressive disorders typically present with a constellation of psychological, behavioral, and physical symptoms. Feeling sad or blue (depressed mood) and loss of interest or pleasure in most activities are the two key features of depression. Both can be present at the same time, but at least one of them is needed to define depression, if a certain number of other symptoms are present. The number of symptoms, the duration of symptoms as well as the degree of functional impairment are essential to distinguish depression from a normal fluctuation in mood.

These accompanying symptoms include sleep abnormalities, loss of energy, loss or increase of either appetite or weight, diminished ability to think or concentrate, feeling physically restless or slowed down, thoughts of worthlessness, hopelessness, or excessive guilt, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. A total of five of the above symptoms must be present for at least two weeks (at least one of them being sadness or loss of interest or pleasure) in order for a physician to make the diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). In addition, depressed patients often complain of excessive worries, irritability or unexplained aches and pains.

Major depressive disorder (MDD), the most common form of depression, is fairly prevalent in the general population. Epidemiologic studies suggest that the rate of MDD in the general population at any given point in time ranges from 2.3% to 4.9%.

Furthermore, approximately 13-17% of individuals living in the U.S. or Western Europe may develop depression at some point during their lifetime. In addition, while in the general population suicides account for about 0.9% of all deaths, about one in five patients with recurrrent depression disorders attempt suicide at some point in their lives. In fact, two thirds of individuals who have attempted suicide were found to suffer from depression.

If you suspect you may be suffering from depression, consult with your doctor for a thorough examination.

For more information about related conditions, please see:

Depression
A depressive disorder is a whole-body illness, involving the body, mood, and thoughts, and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, feels about himself or herself, and thinks about things.

Major Depression
Major depression, also known as clinical depression or unipolar depression, is classified as a type of affective disorder or mood disorder that goes beyond the day's ordinary ups and downs, becoming a serious medical condition and important health concern in this country.

Mood Disorders
Mood disorders are mental health problems that include all types of depression and bipolar disorder.

Manic Depression / Bipolar Disorder
Manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, is classified as a type of affective disorder or mood disorder that goes beyond the day's ordinary ups and downs, becoming a serious medical condition and important health concern in this country.

Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a mood disorder characterized by depression related to a certain season of the year - especially winter.

Dysthymia
Dysthymia, also known as dysthymic disorder, is classified as a type of affective disorder (also called mood disorder) that often resembles a less severe, yet more chronic form of major (clinical) depression.

Substance Abuse / Chemical Dependency
There are three different terms used to define substance-related disorders, including substance abuse, substance dependence, and chemical dependence.