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Treatment for depression comorbid with dementia
  1. Nina Baruch1,
  2. Jennifer Burgess2,3,
  3. Manjunadh Pillai2,
  4. Charlotte Louise Allan2,3
  1. 1 Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
  2. 2 Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  3. 3 University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Charlotte Louise Allan, Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 6BE, UK; charlotte.allan{at}


Depression is a common comorbidity in dementia. Randomised controlled studies of antidepressants do not show a significant improvement in depressive symptoms in patients with comorbid dementia and are known to lead to an increase in side effects. However, there are relatively few studies of depression in dementia, and drawing firm conclusions about the use of antidepressants is limited by the amount of data available. Furthermore, it is unclear whether data can be extrapolated from similar populations (eg, those with late-life depression) to inform pharmacotherapy in this patient group. Given the lack of effectiveness and risk of side effects associated with pharmacological treatments, psychological interventions may offer important therapeutic benefits. There is evidence for the effectiveness of individual psychological therapy, and further research will establish which psychological approach is the most effective. Some studies have shown an improvement in depressive symptoms using structured sleep hygiene programmes, exercise, arts interventions and music therapy. These studies are hampered by small data sets, and the benefits to individuals may not be well captured by standard outcome measures. At present, the best evidence for arts-based approaches is in music therapy. Depression with comorbid dementia responds well to electroconvulsive therapy and this is a useful treatment modality for those with severe or life-threatening depressive symptoms. Alternative neurostimulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation are not widely used at present and further research is needed before they can be a more widely used treatment modality.

  • delirium & cognitive disorders
  • depression & mood disorders

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  • Contributors CLA planned the article; NB, JB and MP made substantial contributions to the first draft. The first draft was prepared by CLA and all authors approved the final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement There are no data in this work.

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