Chronic depression isn’t the same as major depression — it’s a mood disorder with symptoms that can linger for at least 2 years.
Although it’s considered less severe than major depression disorder (MDD), chronic depression can still be a serious mental health condition.
Also known as persistent depressive disorder (PDD) or dysthymia, chronic depression is characterized by a low mood for most of the day.
However, there are several treatment options for chronic depression can be treated and managed effectively.
Chronic depression is characterized by a depressed mood that occurs for most of the day. Someone with chronic depression might feel this way for more days than not, possibly for years on end.
Chronic depression affects about
Many of the symptoms of chronic depression are similar to those of major depression. The difference is that, with chronic depression, the symptoms occur for a longer period of time.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) outlines the criteria for diagnosing chronic depression.
The symptoms of chronic depression can include:
- a depressed mood for most of the day, almost every day
- feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- low self-esteem
- difficulty concentrating
- low energy levels
- difficulty sleeping
- having a poor appetite or overeating
You might find that the symptoms are more intense at times and milder at other times.
Chronic depression can make it difficult for some people to function. You might have difficulty socializing and maintaining relationships, and it can also affect your career or school life.
For an adult to be diagnosed with chronic depression, your symptoms need to persist for at least 2 years, while for children and teens, the symptoms must persist for 1 year.
Someone with chronic depression might also experience an episode of major depression. This is called double depression. With double depression, you might also have suicidal thoughts.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available
You can access free support right away with these resources:
- 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.Call the Lifeline at 988 for English or Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- The Crisis Text Line.Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
- The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text “START” to 678678, or chat online 24/7.
- Veterans Crisis Line.Call 988 and press 1, text 838255, or chat online 24/7.
- Deaf Crisis Line.Call 321-800-3323, text “HAND” to 839863, or visit their website.
- Befrienders Worldwide.This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.
The cause of chronic depression isn’t clear just yet, and more research is needed. Experts believe a number of factors can contribute to the development of chronic depression, including:
- brain chemistry
- biological changes in the brain
- traumatic life events
Chronic depression often goes untreated for many. Because the symptoms can be mild but persistent, a person with chronic depression may think it’s simply a part of their personality and not something that can be managed.
But there are many treatments for chronic depression that might help you feel better.
Talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, is considered a first-line treatment for chronic depression and other mental health conditions.
Many forms of talk therapy can be helpful, including:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT aims to help you recognize cognitive distortions.
- Cognitive behavioral analysis system of psychotherapy (CBASP). CBASP is a newer kind of therapy specifically developed for chronic depression.
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT). IPT focuses on social issues and relationships.
- Psychodynamic therapy. This type of therapy looks into your past to find the root causes of your symptoms.
Your doctor or psychiatrist may prescribe medication to help ease your symptoms.
Chronic depression is often treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as:
If you’re prescribed medication, it’s important to take it as directed. It can be dangerous to stop taking medication without your doctor’s supervision.
If you’re experiencing chronic depression, you might benefit from using supplements. It can be best to consult with your doctor before using a new supplement.
Supplements that may help symptoms of chronic depression include:
- Vitamin D. Per a 2018 journal article, vitamin D deficiencies are associated with depression.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. A review published in 2015 suggests omega-3 fatty acid supplements might help reduce depressive symptoms; however, more research is still needed
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC). A
literature review from 2016suggests that NAC might help improve symptoms.
If you’re intrigued about what supplements can do for your depression, talking with your doctor before using a new supplement can help you gather more information to help determine if their right for you.
Certain self-help strategies might help you feel better.
Firstly, getting support is a great start. You might find it helpful to reach out to supportive loved ones. Support groups can also be helpful — check out the Mental Health America support group database or the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance to find a support group.
Exercising might reduce the physical effects of depression, according to
Depressive symptoms can include sleeping too much or too little. This can contribute to a low mood and low energy levels. You might benefit from setting a sleep schedule and doing relaxing exercises before bed to slow your brain down.
You could also benefit from engaging in enjoyable activities that help you process and express your emotions, such as journaling or other creative hobbies.
If your depression doesn’t respond to other treatments, your doctor might recommend another treatment.
This could include:
- Light therapy uses a light therapy box, which
could helpregulate your sleep cycle and serotonin levels.
- Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a type of brain stimulation therapy that has shown potential in helping people with treatment-resistant depression.
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an effective form of brain stimulation therapy that’s typically prescribed for people with treatment-resistant depression.
Although there’s no cure for chronic depression, symptoms can be managed effectively with the right treatment.
Treatment plans often consist of a combination of:
- self-care and lifestyle changes
Working with your doctor and therapist to design the best treatment plan for you can help you feel better.
If you are ready to seek help but don’t know where to start, consider checking out Psych Central’s guide to finding mental health care.