A feeling of hopelessness is one of the symptoms of depression and is a strong risk factor for suicide. A U.S. study of 573 patients with depression tested their response to three different antidepressants fluoxetine, paroxetine and sertraline. The study found that, overall, patients' depression responded rapidly to medication with 68% of their improvement occuring by the end of the first month and 88% by three months. However, while positive emotions, work functioning and social functioning improved most rapidly improvements in head, back and stomach pain plateaued during the first month, with little improvement thereafter. As far as hopelessness was concerned the improvement was much more gradual leading the researchers behind the study to suggest that cognitive behaviour therapy should be more specifically targeted at reducing patients' hopelessness.
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