Longitudinal social-interpersonal functioning among higher-risk responders to acute-phase cognitive therapy for recurrent major depressive disorder

Jeffrey R. Vittengl, Lee Anna Clark, Michael E. Thase, Robin B. Jarrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background Social-interpersonal dysfunction increases disability in major depressive disorder (MDD). Here we clarified the durability of improvements in social-interpersonal functioning made during acute-phase cognitive therapy (CT), whether continuation CT (C-CT) or fluoxetine (FLX) further improved functioning, and relations of functioning with depressive symptoms and relapse/recurrence. Method Adult outpatients (N=241) with recurrent MDD who responded to acute-phase CT with higher risk of relapse (due to unstable or partial remission) were randomized to 8 months of C-CT, FLX, or pill placebo plus clinical management (PBO) and followed 24 additional months. We analyzed repeated measures of patients' social adjustment, interpersonal problems, dyadic adjustment, depressive symptoms, and major depressive relapse/recurrence. Results Large improvements in social-interpersonal functioning occurring during acute-phase CT (median d=1.4) were maintained, with many patients (median=66%) scoring in normal ranges for 32 months. Social-interpersonal functioning did not differ significantly among C-CT, FLX, and PBO arms. Beyond concurrently measured residual symptoms, deterioration in social-interpersonal functioning preceded and predicted upticks in depressive symptoms and major depressive relapse/recurrence. Limitations Results may not generalize to other patient populations, treatment protocols, or measures of social-interpersonal functioning. Mechanisms of risk connecting poorer social-interpersonal functioning with depression were not studied. Conclusions Average improvements in social-interpersonal functioning among higher-risk responders to acute phase CT are durable for 32 months. After acute-phase CT, C-CT or FLX may not further improve social-interpersonal functioning. Among acute-phase CT responders, deteriorating social-interpersonal functioning provides a clear, measurable signal of risk for impending major depressive relapse/recurrence and opportunity for preemptive intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-156
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of affective disorders
StatePublished - Jul 15 2016


  • Cognitive therapy
  • Continuation treatment
  • Relapse
  • Residual symptoms
  • Social-interpersonal functioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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