Feeling down or blue is a normal experience for everyone. But in normal people, these feelings usually don’t last long and your moods usually get back to normal within a couple of days. However, people with depression find it hard to deal with their feelings and moods in a way that their daily routine is hampered.
Depression comes in various forms of which, chronic depression is one. Otherwise known as dysthymic disorder or dysthymia, chronic depression is considered as a less severe form of depression. It is characterized by symptoms that may last for up to two years or longer. These symptoms though may not be severe enough to cause disability but can impede optimal functioning or keep one from feeling his best. Some people with dysthymia may be able to have adequate functioning but might appear to be consistently unhappy. An estimated half of dysthymic people will also experience a major depression episode at some point in their lives.
The exact reason why people develop chronic depression is not known. It is considered to be associated with the levels of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a neurochemical which helps your brain cope with emotions.
Chronic depression has the tendency to run in families and affects about 10.9 million Americans at least 18 years of age. It can start during childhood or adulthood and is more commonly seen in women than in men. Your risk of becoming depressed tends to increase with major life stressors, such as long-term illness, medications, relationship issues and work-related pressures. A lot of people who have dysthymia suffer from a chronic medical condition, another mental health problem like anxiety, alcohol abuse, or drug addiction.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), all people suffering from depression may not manifest the same symptoms. The individual and his or her specific illness play a role in the severity, frequency and duration of symptoms.
The primary symptom of chronic depression is a low, dark or sad mood on most days that persists for 2 years or longer. In kids and teens, this symptom can be manifested in the form of irritability rather than depression and may last for at least 1 year.
Moreover, if you have chronic depression you may experience at least two of the following symptoms almost all of the time: feelings of hopelessness; decreased energy or fatigue; excessive or lack of sleep; low self-esteem; decreased appetite or overeating; and inability to concentrate properly.
Other signs and symptoms of chronic depression include:
• Feeling worthless, guilty, or helpless;
• Irritability, restlessness;
• Loss of interest in hobbies/activities considered pleasurable before, including sex;
• Difficulty remembering details and making decisions;
• Thoughts of suicide, suicidal attempts;
• Aches and pains, such as headaches, cramps, or gastrointestinal problems that persist even with treatment.
Although the symptoms of chronic depression may be less severe compared with those of major depression, they can still affect a person’s ability to function well at home, at work and in any social group; and their quality of life may suffer.
People with chronic depression may have a complete recovery, but others tend to continue having symptoms even with treatment. Chronic depression can also increase the risk for suicide; and it can develop into a major depression. Thus, people with this disorder need proper evaluation and treatment to effectively manage their symptoms.