Depression is a medical condition affecting emotions and physical well-being. It has a number of causes and contributing factors, including biological changes, such as neurotransmitter activity, and traumatic life events, like a death or divorce. Chronic depression symptoms can surface at any time during a person’s life, and can affect different individuals with varying levels of severity. There is no specific chronic depression test; the condition is diagnosed when symptoms persist for two years or more. Learn some common chronic depression causes, and how chronic clinical depression is treated.
Chronic Depression Symptoms
Chronic clinical depression presents with many of the same symptoms as other depressive disorders, including:
- Changes in sleep or eating habits
- Depressed mood or sadness
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Negative and self-critical personality
- Problems with social relationships
- Reduced productivity at work or school
- Trouble concentrating.
While chronic clinical depression is sometimes more severe than a single depressive episode, this isn’t always the case. Even in the milder form of chronic depression, known as dysthymia, prolonged symptoms can profoundly affect quality of life. A single depressive episode usually lasts less than a year, while chronic depression persists for two years or more. Symptoms sometimes subside for a short period of time, followed by a relapse.
Chronic Depression Causes and Risk Factors
While most major depressive episodes are triggered by sad or traumatic events, chronic depression causes may be less clear-cut. Chronic clinical depression is influenced by a combination of environmental and biological factors. Problems with neurotransmitter activity in the brain are thought to be one of many chronic depression causes, along with the following factors:
- Chronic high stress
- Family history of depression or anxiety disorders
- History of substance abuse
- History of trauma, such as childhood abuse.
Chronic depression causes may also coincide with the development of other chronic or terminal diseases. When a disease persists, or it cannot be cured, depression symptoms often persist as well. Individuals with chronic depression risk developing:
- An increased risk of suicide
- Issues with social and family relationships
- Major depression.
Chronic Depression Treatment
Chronic depression can be more difficult to treat than other depressive disorders. Instead of using antidepressants that are less effective when used alone, your doctor may recommend a combination therapy. Antidepressant medications, specifically tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) will address the biological component of the disorder, while psychotherapy will address emotional and behavioral components of chronic clinical depression.
Harvard Health Publications Staff. (2009). Managing chronic depression. Retrieved May 30, 2010, from the Harvard Health Publications website: www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2009/December/managing-chronic-depression.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Dysthymia (dysthymic disorder). Retrieved May 30, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/dysthymia/DS01111.
Medline Plus Staff. (n.d.). Dysthymia. Retrieved May 30, 2010, from the Medline Plus website: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000918.htm.
Penn State University â€“ Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine Staff. (n.d.) Chronic depression. Retrieved May 30, 2010, from the Penn State University â€“ Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine website: www.hmc.psu.edu/healthinfo/d/depression.htm.