Chronic depression, also called persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia, is characterized by a succession of several depressive episodes associated with different symptoms that persist for a period of at least two years. These mood disorders can be consecutive to an event such as loss of a loved one or employment.
Chronic depression may be due to a depressive disorder inadequately treated. For example, a poorly treated depression during childhood increases the risk to have the disease in adulthood. In fact, the risk of these individuals to develop the disease in adulthood is up to 40%. However, although rare, chronic depression can also occur for no apparent reason. In this case, an effective treatment is more difficult.
What Causes Depression?
Research on mental disorders is currently an area of active study; it is now easier to retrace the factors leading to the disorder than a few years ago. Knowledge about the nature and causes of depression has evolved greatly over the centuries. The factors involved in the occurrence of depressive disorder can be psychological, psychosocial, evolutionary, biological, spiritual, and environmental. All these factors can interact.
Depression is often multifactorial and its causes are usually multiple. A chronic depressive disorder can be linked to one or more traumatic events that you have experienced (grief, mourning, situational crisis, stress) or a hostile psychosocial or family issue that you constantly face. The same, a chronic depression may be associated with other psychiatric or somatic disorders: a group of mental disturbances that cause unexplained physical symptoms. It is also found that prolonged use of certain types of psychoactive drugs or psychotropic substances (alcohol, coffee, tobacco, illegal drugs, medications, and others) may lead to the development of depressive symptoms.
Heredity is also involved. That is, if your family has a history of chronic depression you are at higher risk. That is why it is very important to not trivialize the seriousness of the first episode of the disease. The condition should be taken seriously and treated effectively the first time it appears to prevent relapse, chronicity or complications.
The most characteristic symptoms of all types of depression are sadness associated with a loss of hope and self-esteem. Other signs may occur, such as anxiety or distress, fatigue, negative or/and dark thoughts, mood changes, and hallucinations: false or distorted perception of objects or events with a compelling sense of their reality. In some cases suicidal thoughts are also present.
These symptoms may also be accompanied by sleep disorders (insomnia or excessive sleepiness), loss or gain appetite, headaches, a feeling of guilt or, in the worst cases, of suicidal behavior or attempt. Suicidal thoughts or behavior should not be neglected as they can lead to fetal consequence.
Treatment of chronic depression is similar to that of mild depressive disorder but has a number of particularities. The treatment involves various therapeutic modalities: therapeutic education, psychotherapy, drug therapy, and in the most severe cases, psychiatric hospitalization.
In the treatment of chronic depression, therapeutic education is essential. It aims to improve your life, and boost your moral to face and get rid of the disease. This approach helps you understand the disease, signs of worsening and the importance and difference of drug and nondrug treatments. You will also learn to recognize the side effects of the treatments and techniques you can use to reduce them.
Diet – adopting a healthy diet containing mood–stabilizing foods should be your first steps in your combat to get rid of any mental disease including chronic depression. Regular restful sleep associated with relaxation can help you get rid of the depression symptoms without taking any medications. Omega-3 fatty acid should be top in the list in any anti-depression diet. For more info, visit Anti-Depressant Foods and Supplements.
Talk Therapy and Group Therapy Activities – Talk therapy is a primordial key to get out of any depressive disorder. It is therefore, important to talk to your doctor and contact patients’ associations to get support. Family support can make a huge difference in your fight against a chronic depression. You can also join a community that helps people with severe depressive disorders. Church is a good place to start although it is not safe to trust church goers these days. Share your experience whenever you find comprehensive people that you feel comfortable with.
Antidepressant Medications – taking antidepressants should be adapted to your health status. Their recommendation should be done after consultation with a psychiatrist. During the treatment, you must be monitored regularly and should be reviewed and adapted to the evolution of the disease and side effects of the treatment. Adherence to the treatment to prevent recurrence is also fundamental.
Antidepressant drugs are usually required to be taken for several months and must be associated with other therapies. Medications and talk therapy can bring up to 90% success rate. In some types of mental disorder, a lifelong treatment will be considered. This is the case of bipolar disorder and manic-depressive disorder. Discontinuation of treatment without an alternative may have serious consequences. Although it is not necessarily pleasant to take pills every day, do your best.
Electroconvulsive Therapy – Depending on the severity of the disorder, your health care provider can recommend electroconvulsive therapy: treatment consists of using electric current through the brain to deliberately trigger a brief seizure in order to immediately reverse the symptoms of the depression. This is often the last resort and its implementation requires the consultation of a specialist. This therapy can also be used for seasonal depression but only after the other medical approaches fail to produce good results.
Chronic depression is a serious problem but you can overcome it. While the conventional treatment is taking drugs, natural alternative can also be useful. Healthy diet, sunshine, exercise, and restful sleep can wonders.
- Depression. UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) October 2009.
- Depression Facts. Psychiatry.wustl.edu. Retrieved on 2015-11-24.
- Manicavasagar, Vijaya (February 2012). “A review of depression diagnosis and management”. Australian Psychological Society.
- NICE guidelines, published October 2009. Nice.org.uk. Retrieved on 2015-11-24.
- Cipriani, Andrew (8 June 2016). “Comparative efficacy and tolerability of antidepressants for major depressive disorder in children and adolescents: a network meta-analysis”. The Lancet. 388 (10047): 881. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30385-3. Retrieved 10 June 2016.