All You Need To Know About Chronic Depression (And Its Treatment)
Depression can be crippling and not easy to come out from, but with the right treatment and coping, depression can be managed. So what is it when depression lingers and refuses to leave for years? What can be done to recover from chronic depression?
Depression is one of the most serious mental health disorders that can cause persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness to the point where you lose the ability to function and carry out your normal routine including waking up, eating, going to work, and even feeling emotions.
While some symptoms of depression are mild and can be recoverable, there are some types of depression such as chronic depression that can persist for a long time – for years. Experiencing chronic depression isn’t uncommon, but when left untreated for a long time, it can become life-threatening.
Below, we’ll be exploring the symptoms of chronic depression, its causes, the impact of being chronically depressed, and how to treat chronic depression.
Symptoms And Signs Of Chronic Depression
Here are some common chronic depression symptoms to keep in mind:
- Lingering sadness
- Emotional numbness
- Feeling Angry
- Feeling anxiety and irritability
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feeling guilty for no reason
- Ruminating over your failures
- Experiencing a lack of enjoyment in everything
- Feeling restless and lethargic
- Having poor concentration
- Difficulty making decisions
- Low motivation and energy
- Experiencing hallucinations or delusions
- Changes in sleep pattern
- Changes in appetite
- Poor weight management
- Experiencing frequent headaches and other aches
- Having thoughts of self-harm or suicide
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide or is in danger of one, then immediately contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also reach out to your nearest emergency number.
What Causes Chronic Depression?
Certain factors can contribute to chronic depression, and some of them can include;
- Genetics: Depression can be passed down, so if one of your close relatives (parent, sibling) has a history of depression, then you’re likely to develop the condition too.
- Brain chemical imbalance: While it’s not certain, certain imbalances in the brain chemicals can contribute to symptoms of depression.
- Traumatic experiences: If you’ve had a traumatic experience such as losing a parent, sibling, the job you valued, or other similar stressors, then you may struggle with feelings of depression.
- Medical conditions: Depression can also be a condition that can occur alongside a medical condition, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
- Medications: Even the medications you take can cause an imbalance in the brain chemicals, making you more susceptible to depression. Even antidepressants can have side effects, so always check in with your doctor before taking the prescribed pills.
Types Of Long-Term Depression
Chronic depression can have many types. Long-term depression is not easy to recover from, and takes years of therapy and coping to feel less depressed. Here are some types of long-term depression that you should know about:
1. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): Clinical depression, as it’s better known, is the depression type where you experience strong and overwhelming symptoms of depression that can affect your ability to live normally.
2. Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD): Dysthymia or persistent depression is when you experience mild symptoms of depression for more than two years.
3. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): This type of depression occurs seasonally, usually during the winter months, and can make you feel gloomy all season. Generally, the symptoms fade as summer approaches.
4. Psychotic Depression: When symptoms of depression (mentioned above) occur with symptoms of psychosis (hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking), then it could be referred to as Psychotic depression.
5. Bipolar Depression: When symptoms of depression occur with symptoms of bipolar disorder, then it could be referred to as bipolar depression. In this type, it’s common to experience intense mood swings.
How Is Chronic Depression Diagnosed?
Only an experienced, licensed, and trained psychotherapist can diagnose depression. If you suspect symptoms of chronic depression in yourself or your loved one, then reach out to a therapist for a diagnosis.
During the diagnosis, the therapist may ask your medical history, family background, and about the severity of your symptoms to determine the depression. Additionally, they might even take certain tests and examinations to rule out other conditions that may be confused with symptoms of depression or other causes of depression, such as hormonal imbalance, etc.
Chronic Depression Treatment
Chronic depression can be treated with a mix of psychotherapy and medications. Here are some of the most recommended treatments for chronically depressed people:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help address the mental and emotional causes of depression and work on changing your negative thinking patterns. Problem-solving therapy and Interpersonal therapy for depression are also recommended to treat depressive symptoms.
Antidepressants prescribed by a certified doctor can help balance the chemicals in the brain. SSRIs and SNRIs are the most common antidepressants recommended for treating long-term or chronic depression.
3. SAD Lamps:
SAD lamps or sunlight lamps are also recommended to help treat Seasonal affective disorder symptoms. These lamp boxes are a part of light therapy and can help you balance the symptoms that stem from the lack of sunlight during winter months.
4. Brain Stimulation:
This type of therapy provides mild electric currents to the brain that can help people who normally don’t or aren’t responding to other therapy approaches. Again, this kind of treatment should be administered by a trained, experienced, and licensed therapist only.
Some Coping Tips To Help You
Here are some simple coping tips that you can combine with the above treatment to help manage your chronic depression symptoms;
1. Question Negative Thoughts:
When you’re depressed, it’s common to have more negative thoughts than positive ones, so when you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, question them. Why did they arise? Is there any truth to them?
2. Join Support Groups:
Joining support groups can also help you cope with depression symptoms. Here, you meet people who’ve been through similar experiences and came out of the experience or are still recovering from them. Support groups will also make you feel less alone in your struggles and give you the motivation to keep going.
3. Find Healthy Coping Mechanisms:
It’s easy (or safe) to not do anything and let the numbness spread rather than feel the pain. I would recommend that instead of doing nothing and dwelling on negative things, pick up a creative outlet to express yourself. Sports, art, performing arts, and even journaling can be good and healthy outlets to cope with the symptoms of chronic depression.
4. Continue Therapy:
If you find yourself feeling better than yesterday, don’t think that you don’t need therapy anymore. Continuing therapy is a self-care technique that is going to help you live and recover from the symptoms of depression.
Chronic depression can stay for years, and its symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Sometimes, you may feel that you’ve recovered, but then the symptoms of depression will creep back in, causing a relapse. Even then, don’t give up and connect with your therapist. Never give up on your treatment and recovery.
With enough help and support, you’ll recover and feel better soon. The above-mentioned coping tips will help you!
I hope this article helped you understand all about chronic depression and what to do when you’re chronically depressed.
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Remember, you are NOT alone!