Objective: To review the literature of the past decade covering the assessment, treatment, and prevention of early-onset major depressive disorder (MDD) and dysthymic disorder (DD).
Method: A computerized search for articles published during the past decade was made, and selected studies are presented.
Results: Diagnostic systems and standardized interviews have been developed to reliably assess and diagnose early-onset MDD and DD. To data, few controlled psychotherapeutic trials, in particular cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and one study using fluoxetine have been shown to be efficacious in the acute management of early-onset MDD. While studies of tricyclic antidepressants have shown no difference between medication and placebo, these studies are inconclusive because of the inclusion of small samples and other methodological issues. CBT may also be useful for the prevention of MDD. No studies have been published on maintenance treatment of MDD or the treatment of early-onset DD.
Conclusions: It appears that both pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions have a role in the acute treatment of MDD. However, further research on the separate and combined efficacy of these treatments for the acute treatment, maintenance, and prevention of early-onset MDD and DD is needed. The impact of comorbidity and psychosocial consequences of early-onset depression also emphasize the importance of utilizing a multimodal approach to treatment.