Chronic depression (Dysthymia) has many synonyms such as: dysthymic disorder, neurotic depression, minor depression and depressive personality.
Dysthymic disorder is a chronic mood disorder characterized with chronic mild or moderate depression that lasts for two or more years.
Dysthymic disorder is different from major depression and the main difference is that people with major depression cannot function normally where people with chronic depression can, but with an extra effort.
In addition, people suffering from chronic depression usually have periods of the day or weeks when they feel better and can function normally without losing as much energy.
People have reported to be chronically depressed their entire life thinking that there is nothing to do about it because that is the way they are. Those people are usually labeled by their surroundings as depressive and phlegmatic without ever getting a chance to get better.
Dysthymia (chronic depression) is seen by some as a mild form of major depression or as the beginning (first stage) of a major depressive disorder (major depression). Both views can be argued even though people suffering from chronic depression are, in most cases, one step closer to major depression, than those who do not have dysthymic disorder.
Be that as it may, in order to successfully treat a person with any illness, a correct and precise diagnosis is needed. Therefore, the clinical point of view, dysthymic disorder and major depressive disorder are two different and separate disorders. Even though chronic depression is a type of a clinical depression that is less severe than major depression, it can have very unwanted and unpleasant effects on a person’s life.
As stated above, people suffering from chronic depression are not disabled by their depression (which is the case, with major depression) however they always need an extra effort to function normally and because of that, they feel chronically tired and have little or no energy to socialize, have a hobby or to participate in sports. In other words, they are not fun to be around and because of that, they are usually labeled as antisocial or something worse.
Chronic Depression Diagnosis
To diagnose chronic depression, manic episodes must not have occurred, and major depressive episodes, must not have occurred in the first two years of the illness. In addition, a person must be depressed for most of the day for two years or longer and have at least two of the following chronic depression symptoms:
• Difficulty making decisions
• Poor appetite or overeating
• Insomnia or oversleeping
• Low self esteem
• Poor concentration
• Low energy or fatigue
Of course, the list of chronic depression symptoms above is far from complete, however those symptoms are the most common chronic depression symptoms.
Causes of Chronic Depression
The cause of chronic depression is not clear, however there are several factors that together may cause chronic depression:
• Genetic predisposition
• Physical factors such as chronic pain or physical illness
• Psychological factors (for example, hating the way you look, or the place you live in for a very long period of time)
• Interpersonal factors (having constant problems with the ones close to you)
• Social factors such as social isolation
There are other factors that can cause chronic depression, but the factors stated above are the most common causes of chronic depression. This is why, if you "found" yourself in the list of causes above, you need to start making changes in your life because those things will not go away by themselves. Otherwise, there is a good chance you will end up with depression.
Chronic Depression Treatment
Psychopharmacology: Antidepressants (anti depressive medicine) offer relief from symptoms of chronic depression. They are quite successful in doing so however antidepressants are not a cure for depression. Take for example, Allison’s case.
Allison who is 25 years old was chronically depressed for four years because she is overweight and has not had a boyfriend for five years.
What would you say was the right treatment for her? Is it antidepressants alone or psychotherapy to boost her self-esteem accompanied with physical exercise?
Antidepressants should be used in cases when a person is not able to take part in psychotherapy due to the severity of the symptoms. This, however, is usually not the case with people suffering from chronic depression, because their symptoms are mild but persistent.
When taking antidepressants you must be disciplined and take them as your doctor tells you. Once you start taking antidepressants you must continue for at least six months, however, in cases of chronic depression, people usually take them for years. If you decide to take antidepressants, you should do so while participating in psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy: Even though antidepressants are commonly prescribed as a sole therapy for chronic depression, they do not solve your marriage problems, make you look thinner or boost your self-esteem. All this is done in psychotherapy. There are many types of psychotherapy. Some of them are cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, gestalt therapy, interpersonal therapy and psychoanalytic therapies
Antidepressants are very useful in treating some types of depression when used together with psychotherapy. In case of chronic depression, they are not necessary. Finally, antidepressants are not a cure for chronic depression only psychotherapy is.