BMC psychiatry 2017 11 2117(1) 370 doi 10.1186/s12888-017-1523-8
The manifestation of major depressive disorder (MDD) may include cognitive symptoms that can precede the onset of MDD and persist beyond the resolution of acute depressive episodes. However, little is known about how cognitive symptoms are experienced by MDD patients and the people around them.
In this international (Brazil, Canada, China, France, and Germany) ethnographic study, we conducted semi-structured interviews and observations of remitted as well as symptomatic MDD patients (all patients self-reported being diagnosed by an HCP and self-reported being on an antidepressant) aged 18-60 years with self-reported cognitive symptoms (N = 34). In addition, participating depressed patients’ close family or friends (N = 31) were interviewed. Separately recruited from depressed participants, work colleagues (N = 21) and healthcare providers (HCPs; N = 13) of depressed individuals were interviewed.
Key insights were that: (1) patients were generally unaware that their cognitive symptoms were linked to their depression and, instead, attributed these symptoms to negative aspects of their person (e.g., age, separate disease, laziness, exhaustion); (2) cognitive symptoms in MDD appeared to negatively impact patients’ social relationships and patients’ ability to handle daily tasks at work and at home; (3) patients’ cognitive symptoms also impacted relationships with family members and coworkers; (4) patients’ cognitive symptoms increased stress and feelings of failure, which in turn seemed to worsen the cognitive symptoms, thereby creating a destructive cycle; and (5) although HCPs recommended that patients re-engage in everyday activities to help overcome their depression, cognitive symptoms seemed to impede such functional recovery.
Taken together, these findings highlight a negative impact of patients’ cognitive symptoms on their social functioning, work performance, and quality of life on the people close to them, and consequently on the degree of functional recovery after depression.