Background Many individuals with major depressive disorder present with prominent motivational deficits; however, the effect of these symptoms on functional outcomes in the illness remains unclear. Method Individuals with major depression who participated in the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression study were included in the present investigation (N = 1563). Motivational deficits were evaluated using a derived measure from the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, while functioning was assessed using the Work and Social Adjustment Scale. Subjective outcomes were also evaluated using the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire. Results After treatment with citalopram, over 70% of participants continued to experience some degree of motivational deficits. These deficits were significantly associated with greater functional impairments both globally and in each domain of functioning evaluated. These symptoms were also linked to worse subjective outcomes such as overall life satisfaction and quality of life. Change in the severity of motivational deficits over time was significantly linked with changes in outcome. Motivational deficits continued to demonstrate a significant association with outcomes, even after controlling for potentially confounding variables such as duration of depressive episode and severity of other depressive symptoms. Conclusions Motivational deficits are significantly linked to the functional impairment present in many people with major depression, just as they are in other psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia. A greater understanding of the underlying mechanisms of these motivational deficits in particular, beyond other depressive symptoms, is critical to the development of strategies aimed at enhancing functional recovery and improved subjective well-being.
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