The Lived Experiences of Depression in Huntington's Disease: A Qualitative Study

J Huntingtons Dis. 2022 May 13. doi: 10.3233/JHD-220537. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Depression is a common neuropsychiatric syndrome in Huntington's disease (HD) and has debilitating consequences, including poorer sleep, exacerbation of cognitive and functional decline, and suicidality. To date, no published studies have documented the lived experience of depression in HD, despite clinical evidence that depression may be experienced differently in HD compared to the general population.

Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the lived experiences of depression in people with the CAG expansion for HD using qualitative methods.

Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with HD CAG expansion carriers who had current or previous experiences of depression, until data saturation was achieved. This resulted in interviews from 17 HD CAG expansion carriers (11 premanifest, 6 manifest) which were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: The four key themes that emerged related to the temporal characteristics of depression in HD, the qualitative changes associated with depression, psychosocial stressors perceived to contribute to depression, and the perception of depression as an endogenous feature of HD.

Conclusion: This study provides an enriched understanding of the unique characteristics of depression in HD, and the attributions that CAG expansion carriers make for their depression symptoms. The themes identified in this study can be used to guide more targeted assessment and treatment of depression in HD.

Keywords: Depression; Huntington’s disease; mental health; qualitative research; quality of life; stress.