What Is Chronic Depression?

man with chronic depressionIt is natural for humans to experience periods of sadness. Universal life transitions, such as losing a job or ending a relationship, often evoke temporary sadness. When the grim emotions are temporary, individuals can trust that hope is in the near future; however, for some individuals, the temporary sadness morphs into a chronic state of despair.

Chronic Depression Defined

From a clinical perspective, temporary episodes of sadness lasting for only a couple of days are deemed situational depression. In response to stressful situations or life transitions, it is not uncommon for individuals to experience symptoms of fatigue, irritability and sadness; however, when the blue feelings refuse to subside, chronic depression is oftentimes the culprit. The trademarks of chronic depression entail periods of sadness lasting for more than two weeks and for some individuals, as long as two years. In addition, individuals suffering from chronic depression experience more frequent and severe symptoms than those with situational depression.

The classic symptoms of chronic depression include the following:

  • Lack of energy or chronic fatigue
  • Daily feelings of hopelessness, sadness or guilt
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Loss of interest in relationships, hobbies or passions
  • Frequent thoughts of suicide or death
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Low back and body aches
  • Digestive issues, such as constipation, diarrhea and/or nausea

Chronic Dysthymic Depression

Affecting nearly 6 percent of the population, dysthymic depression is the most common type of chronic depression. While individuals suffering from dysthymic disorder frequently display the same generic sadness as more severe depressive episodes, their symptoms tend to be less severe. Typically, the dysthymic individual will reveal low self-esteem, lack of concentration and general feelings of apathy.  While each individual will experience depression differently, doctors diagnose dysthymic depression when the patient displays two or more of the classic symptoms.

With the help of therapy, medication and lifestyle modifications, many individuals are able to overcome dysthymic depression. However, for many other individuals, their depression intensifies, eventually leading to major chronic depression.

Major Chronic Depression

When individuals continue to suffer from depression for more than two years, their condition becomes chronic. According to psychologists, individuals with major chronic depression display nearly all of the DSMV symptoms. In addition to feeling sad, fatigued and apathetic, individuals with major chronic depression may exhibit more specific behavioral symptoms, from overeating to excessive sleeping. Because of the duration and intensity of symptoms, major depression is difficult to treat. According to research conduct by Harvard Medical School, after two years, roughly 20 percent of individuals with major depression had not yet recovered.

Overcoming Chronic Depression

Whether the “blues” are situational or chronic, finding the right treatment is paramount in overcoming depression. While each treatment is beneficial, it is vital for individuals to select the one with which they feel most comfortable. At the root of chronic depression is a weakened sense of self. Thus, a key component in healing is gaining confidence. Empowering depressed individuals in any capacity is a necessary aspect in managing chronic depression. The most feasible treatment options are as follows:

  • Antidepressant medication
  • Psychotherapy
  • Lifestyle modifications, such as healthy eating habits and daily exercise
  • Alternative therapies, like meditation, yoga and relaxation techniques

Through the lens of chronic depression, life can feel bleak. Clouded by darkness, it can seem impossible to remember the joy and laughter innate in being human. However, overcoming chronic depression is possible. If you’d like help dealing with chronic depression, contact us here at The Oaks at La Paloma. We can help.