It’s estimated that about 6 percent of the general population suffers from chronic depression, a condition frequently called dysthymia (or dysthymic disorder). What’s upsetting is that many people may not even be aware they have it. Commonly chalked up to bad moods or pessimism, those suffering from chronic depression may just feel that a negative worldview is part of how their personality is programmed.
Types of Chronic Depression
A recent interview transcribed on Harvard Health Publications noted a difference in the varying levels of chronic depression.
- Dysthymia. Dysthymic disorder differs from major or mild depression in such that a person experiences a depressed mood and at least two other symptoms of depression for two years or more. This continual depression may be interspersed with brief feelings of joy or happiness but generally those feelings fade away rather quickly. The depression itself may be mild on a daily basis but can worsen in the long-term. PsychCentral estimates that at least 3 percent of the American population suffers from dysthymia.
- Double depression. Two types of depression at once? Is it even possible? Psychiatrists say yes. At least 75 percent of persons with dysthymia are thought to develop double depression at some point in their lifetimes. The condition is marked by a major depressive episode following the development of dysthymic disorder.
- Chronic major depression. Persons suffering from chronic major depression experience frequent episodes of and meet the full criteria for major depression for at least two years.
- Chronic depression, partial recovery. Just because a person may not experience depressive episodes as frequently after treatment, depressive symptoms can still exist in a condition that is defined as a partial or incomplete recovery. People in this category only partially meet the criteria for major depression.
What we do know about chronic depression is that those suffering from it tend to be more pessimistic toward themselves and others, have higher rates of social impairment, and can appear as dependent or avoidant. Comorbid conditions like anxiety or substance abuse are more likely in those with chronic depression.
Signs of Chronic Depression
If you or someone you know experiences frequent bouts of depressed or low moods, take a look at the duration of these symptoms. Have they lasted for days, weeks, months or years? It’s important to note that persistent conditions such as those mentioned above do not disappear immediately just by changing one’s outlook. Chronic depression often requires long-term treatment as the occurrences of relapse can be high.
Here are some symptoms of depression that you may want to look out for:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Low energy levels; often fatigued
- Too little or too much sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Disinterest in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyable
- Neglect of responsibilities and relationships
- Poor concentration and decision-making capabilities
- Family history of mood disorders, especially depression
- Co-occurring conditions like anxiety or substance abuse
Getting Treated for Chronic Depression
Treatment options for chronic depression often include a combination of behavioral and pharmacological approaches. Again, chronic depression frequently requires long-term maintenance in order to avoid relapses.
It’s not just a “bad mood.” Chronic depression is a condition that can affect every area of your life and the lives of those around you. It’s a serious illness that should be treated by a professional. You can call us and speak confidentially with a representative to learn more about the treatment options available to you. This illness doesn’t have to claim your life; let us help you find a way to overcome chronic depression.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton