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Chronic Depression: How Does It Affect People?

Chronic depression, also known as dysthymia , tends to go unnoticed among people with the condition, perhaps due to its less disabling quality. That is, those who suffer from it appear to be functioning normally in their activities of daily life and do not show too obvious signs.

According to James Morrison :  “Dysthymics suffer in silence and their disability can be subtle: they tend to invest much of their energy at work and neglect the social aspects of life.” However, it is important to know that this disorder exists and that it affects the quality of life of patients.

What is chronic depression?

Chronic depression has been called by different names: dysthymia , dysthymic disorder , and persistent depressive disorder . The most characteristic symptom is a sad state of mind that is present most of the time. Likewise, it is associated with feelings of ineptitude, irritability, loss of interest and social withdrawal, among others.

Dysthymia has a longer duration than major depressive episodes and the symptoms are manifested with less intensity. These must be present for at least two years in adults and one year in adolescents and children to establish the diagnosis. In addition, they should not disappear for a period greater than two months.

In these cases, patients often report that they have always been depressed. Most commonly, this condition begins in childhood or adolescence . Although cases with a late onset have been found , whose appearance takes place after the age of 21.

In general, people with dysthymia have a milder disability than people with major depressive disorder. That is, they are able to continue life without treatment until symptoms intensify. Which can lead to a major depressive episode, which is easier to diagnose.

Man with depression.
Chronic depression lasts over time and affects many aspects of daily life.

Also read:  Dysthymia, the melancholy that makes us prisoners

How does chronic depression affect people?

Different areas of life are affected by chronic depression. Both the emotional and the physical suffer the consequences . This also translates to the social level, in relationships with others. Let’s take a closer look at what these manifestations are at the expense of quality of life.

In the emotional realm

Patients with chronic depression have a depressed mood almost every day . In children and adolescents, in particular, it is more common for them to express irritability most of the time. In adulthood there are often feelings of hopelessness, under the premise that problems have no solution.

Low self-esteem is also recorded. They have a poor concept of themselves. They think, for example, that they are useless. In the long run, this leads to poor personal care, due to reluctance.

In cognition

These people have poor concentration and difficulty making decisions . In children and adolescents, it is common to have comorbidity with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The pessimistic view of the world and constant negative thoughts encompass all of existence. Some people do not realize that they are depressed. They acknowledge that they feel tired, have trouble concentrating, have low self-esteem, and have feelings of hopelessness, but are unaware that they are depressed.

On a physical level

On the physical level, chronic depression has the following symptoms:

  • Low energy or tiredness: This interferes with productivity and the ability to carry out daily tasks.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia: the person finds it difficult to fall asleep or, on the contrary, sleeps excessively.
  • Enuresis : in children, with involuntary loss of urine at night.
  • Appetite changes: the person experiences a poor appetite or may overeat.

In the social sphere

These people appear to have a certain social stability, however, the little energy they have is invested in work, thus neglecting other aspects of life, such as sharing with family and friends or performing entertainment activities.

The discomfort in the person affects work or school performance and there is a deterioration in social relationships. Despite spending more time on non-relational activities, the other area does not receive enough attention either.

Elderly man with chronic depression.
Depression affects social relationships and that later makes the therapeutic approach difficult.

Discover:  When Sadness Becomes Chronic: Dysthymia

Treatments for chronic depression

Psychotherapy and drug treatment are effective tools to combat chronic depression. Especially when the two are combined.

There are a variety of psychological therapies that treat this condition, obtaining positive results. Among them are cognitive-behavioral therapy , psychoanalysis, family therapy and group therapy. Each one has its own particular characteristics. None is better than another. The important thing is that the patient feels comfortable with the assistance they are receiving.

For its part, drug treatment helps to modify brain chemistry, which helps improve mood. The choice of drugs should be made considering the particular symptoms of the patient and the side effects that it may generate.

Chronic depression can be addressed

Having chronic depression is not the end of your quality of life. Currently there are varied resources to address the disorder. In any case, it is essential that the person wants to receive care and that the social support network is available to accompany the process.

The symptoms of this condition overlap and hide , so paying attention to the signs is key so that it does not evolve into more serious and complicated forms. Mental health professionals are trained to provide support tools.

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