What is chronic depression and how is it distinct from other types of depression?
Coping with chronic depression can present some different challenges, but better understanding can lead to feeling better!
What Is Chronic Depression?
Chronic depression, also known as dysthymia, or persistent depressive disorder, is a type of depression lasting more than two years at a time in adults. Children and teens are considered to have chronic depression when symptoms persist for one year at a time.
Sadly, it is not particularly uncommon. An estimated three to six percent of Americans are said to suffer from persistent depressive disorder.
It very frequently occurs with other disorders, ranging from major depression, anxiety, ADHD or personality disorders to substance abuse.
Causes And Signs Of Chronic Depression
It is very rarely attributed to one single cause. Rather, sufferers generally have a number of risk factors that contribute to developing chronic depression, which can be internal (biological or psychological) or external (environmental).
While people who suffer from chronic depression may have good days, even good weeks or months, the low mood is present the majority of the time.
Signs of chronic depression frequently overlap with those of other mood disorders, as these signs include difficulty sleeping, irritability, low self-esteem, and low energy.
Unlike major depression, dysthymia often seems mild on any given day. For this reason, it is is frequently described as “mild depression.” This is a misnomer as it discounts the extremely difficult, long-term repercussions of chronic depression.
Dangers Of Chronic Depression
Individuals with chronic depression are at greater risk of major depression. Among people with dysthymia, 80 to 90 percent are expected to develop major depression, according to David J. Hellerstein, M.D., a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University.
As he puts it, it’s similar to having asthma: “You are more likely to get bronchitis and pneumonia because you have this baseline condition all the time.”
Because chronic depression usually appears mild, it’s very uncommon for sufferers to seek out help.
Since the low mood has persisted for years, most people with dysthymia don’t realize they have a mood disorder. It has become “normal” for them after all this time, so they often think of themselves as “pessimistic,” “moody,” or perhaps overly self-conscious.
Is There A Cure?
Truly mild depression, or non-chronic mild depression, can often be improved through lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, and social activities like support groups. These changes rarely do much to help people with chronic depression.
Furthermore, compared with sufferers of major depression, the placebo response is very, very low in people who suffer from chronic depression.
It’s a challenging thing to overcome! But there is no need to feel hopeless. No one deserves to feel low and hopeless, especially not for years at a time. Chronic depression does respond well to antidepressants, particularly in combination with psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy may come first for individuals who are uncomfortable with the idea of medication, but if little improvement is seen after a few months, antidepressants should be taken.
Medication is a recommended first step so that individuals have the opportunity to make lifestyle changes and establish healthy routines.
Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) are the first line of treatment. To be most effective, it is recommended they be taken in conjunction with talk therapy.
Depression treatment includes identifying and expressing your emotional needs, increasing positive thinking and belief systems, reducing critical or unhelpful thoughts, and increasing self-worth.
Can You Overcome It?
It takes courage to seek out help. Possibly, making a few lifestyle changes can help give you the boost you need to get the treatment you deserve.
- Start improving your quality of life in small steps, such as staying away from drugs and excessive drinking.
- Establish routines and do your best to stick to them, particularly so you can get the proper amount of rest. You may want to try a day planner.
- Do try exercise and eating right as a healthy body also improves mental health.