Background: Dysthymia and minor depression are common problems in primary care, but it is not known how patient health beliefs shape response to antidepressant treatment of these less severe forms of depression.
Methods: Three hundred thirty-three primary care patients with dysthymia or minor depression received at least 4 weeks of paroxetine or placebo in a multicenter, randomized controlled 11-week trial. Patient health beliefs and other characteristics were examined as predictors of treatment adherence and depression remission.
Results: Patient beliefs were not predictive of adherence to paroxetine or placebo. Patients with less endorsement of biological beliefs about their condition (odds ratio [OR] = 3.40), higher perceived general health (OR = 3.38), meeting criteria for dysthymia (OR = 2.37), and age younger than 60 years (OR = 2.68) were more likely to achieve remission on paroxetine. Patient beliefs did not predict remission on placebo. Those with lower severity of depression symptoms at baseline (OR = 2.70) and women (OR = 2.18) were most likely to achieve remission on placebo.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that patients with dysthymia or minor depression are more likely to respond to antidepressant medication if they do not see their depression as a biological illness and see themselves as generally healthy. It is clearly not necessary for patients to believe that their dysthymia or minor depression is biological to respond to antidepressant medication.