Background: Approximately 8 million Americans suffer the loss of an immediate family member each year. Chronic depression may develop following bereavement-about 15% of the bereaved are depressed at 1 year. Several studies of psychotropic medications have demonstrated improvement in depression ratings, but little data exists for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor treatment in bereavement-related depression. Methods: Thirty adults were treated with escitalopram for 12 weeks in open fashion for a major depressive episode following loss of a close family member (parent, sibling, child, or spouse/significant other). Main outcome measures were the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, the Montgomery-Asberg Rating Scale, the Texas Revised Inventory of Grief, and the Inventory of Complicated Grief. Results: Twenty-nine of thirty participants returned for at least one set of efficacy measures after starting medication. Nineteen subjects (66%) experienced a 50% or greater improvement on the Hamilton Depression Scale. Fifteen subjects (52%) achieved remission, defined as a final score of 7 or less on the Hamilton Depression Scale. Escitalopram significantly reduced depressive symptoms (P < 0.001) over time. Subjects with uncomplicated grief and those with complicated grief improved similarly over time. Subjects with and without PTSD improved to a similar degree. Escitalopram was well tolerated. Limitations: Open-label design, psychotherapy was not controlled, relatively short treatment period, variation in grief scales make comparisons to other studies difficult, all subjects with complicated grief also were clinically depressed, and gender discrepancy of sample. Conclusions: Escitalopram improved depressive, anxiety, and grief symptoms in individuals experiencing a major depressive episode related to the loss of a loved one.
- Complicated grief
- Post-traumatic stress disorder