Identifying risk for attrition during treatment for depression

Diane Warden, Madhukar H. Trivedi, Stephen R. Wisniewski, Ira M. Lesser, Jeff Mitchell, G. K. Balasubramani, Maurizio Fava, Kathy Shores-Wilson, Diane Stegman, A. John Rush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Understanding patients' ambivalence about treatment persistence may be useful in tailoring retention interventions for individual patients with major depressive disorder. Methods: Participants (n = 265) with major depressive disorder were enrolled into an 8-week trial with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. At baseline and week 2, the participants were asked about their intent to return for the next visit, complete the study and continue in the study should they experience side effects or no improvement. Dropouts were defined as participants who discontinued attending clinic visits before completing the trial. Results: Participants who at baseline reported an uncertain/negative intent to continue if they experienced side effects or no improvement dropped out at a significantly higher rate by weeks 6 and 8. Uncertain/negative intent at week 2 predicted attrition at all following visits. Dropouts without side effects were more likely to have reported an uncertain/negative intent to attend at both baseline and week 2, while dropouts who experienced side effects were more likely to have reported an uncertain/negative intent to attend only at baseline. Positive intent to continue was associated with greater symptom improvement in both dropouts and completers despite the possibility of lack of efficacy. Conclusions: Participants' pretreatment concerns about continuing antidepressant treatment in the presence of side effects signals challenges to the completion of a full 8-week acute phase treatment, even if the participant does not develop side effects. Individualized review of concerns and tailoring appropriate interventions may be necessary to reduce attrition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-379
Number of pages8
JournalPsychotherapy and Psychosomatics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2009


  • Adherence
  • Antidepressant
  • Attitudes
  • Attrition
  • Depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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