Depression is a mood disorder affecting how an individual thinks and feels. Sadness and other symptoms of depression can interfere with activities such as school, work, and sleep and can also get in the way of maintaining healthy relationships. Depression is more common than you may think, and people experience different types. Some people may wonder why they feel so depressed all the time, and there is an answer. When individuals experience depression with symptoms lasting at least two years, the condition is called persistent depression.
Understanding Persistent Depression
A person experiencing persistent depression typically suffers from poor emotional health and constant sadness most of the time for two or more years. Persistent depression is also called persistent depressive disorder, dysthymia, or dysthymic disorder. If you have felt sad and can’t pinpoint the cause, you may have wondered, “Why do I feel so depressed all the time?” However, you are not alone. Persistent depression affects adults and children, with at least three percent of people in the U.S. experiencing the condition at some time in their lives. In addition to chronic sadness, persistent depression symptoms include appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, low energy, and low self-esteem.
Common Triggers for Chronic Sadness
Life experiences and environmental influences can put people at risk for chronic sadness, including having a parent or sibling with depression, living in an unstable home environment, witnessing a traumatic event, or losing a loved one. The loss of a friendship, romantic relationship, or a job can also cause grief and chronic sadness. Persistent depression can be a symptom of another mental health disorder. For example, people with anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and substance use disorder may experience chronic depression. Factors contributing to persistent depression in children include family history, abuse, developmental delays, other mental health disorders, neglect, loss of a parent or caregiver, and living in stressful environments.
Getting a Correct Diagnosis
Since persistent depression is long-term, individuals with the condition can benefit from depression management strategies; however, it is essential to get a correct diagnosis. A doctor diagnoses depression using standard psychiatric criteria. Diagnosing persistent depressive disorder requires a physical examination to rule out other illnesses, as there are health conditions that can cause you to feel depressed. For example, if your thyroid is underactive (hypothyroidism), you may feel depression symptoms. The doctor will assess your family health history, discuss your symptoms, and order blood tests. Treating the symptoms may resolve the issue if there is a physical cause.
Your doctor can perform a psychological evaluation if there is no physical reason for your symptoms. They will ask you how long you have felt depressed. During the psychological evaluation, you can also expect to discuss whether others in your family have experienced similar issues. They may inquire about post-traumatic stress, appetite changes, alcohol or drug use, energy level, and whether you have had suicidal thoughts. The doctor will review the information gathered during the evaluation. If they determine that you are chronically depressed, they can work with you to get the treatment you need for managing persistent depression.
Treatment for Persistent Depression
A treatment plan may include therapy, medications, and other treatments to help you deal with depression triggers and alleviate or lessen symptoms. Initially, you may benefit from a structured residential or outpatient treatment program where you can focus on getting mentally healthy. You will learn that you are not alone in your struggles. By participating in individual therapy, group therapy, and other activities, you can develop the coping skills you need to deal with situations that cause you to feel depressed. Family therapy can help your family understand what you are going through and offers a safe space to address issues that can interfere with healthy relationships.
When to Seek Professional Help for Persistent Depressive Symptoms
Some people with persistent depression fail to seek professional help because they don’t know what’s available. Those aware of treatment options are sometimes hesitant to seek treatment because of the discrimination and stigma associated with a mental health diagnosis.
If you’re coping with long-term depression, there is no need to feel ashamed and suffer in silence. There are programs and resources to support you in your efforts to become mentally healthy. It’s normal to feel sad sometimes, but if at least two of the following situations describe you, it’s time to seek help:
- Have felt sad for two or more years.
- Feel lonely even when you are around people you care about.
- Low energy
- No longer enjoy things that made you happy in the past.
- Grieving a loss that happened several years ago.
- Thoughts of suicide or suicidal attempts.
- Using alcohol or drugs to help you deal with your feelings.
Healthy Strategies for Managing Long-Term Depression
It is essential to seek professional help if you feel you are always depressed. However, once you get treatment, you’ll want to practice depression management strategies to help you live a healthy and fulfilling life. Consider the following healthy strategies for managing persistent depression and helping you be your best:
- Be kind to yourself. Being depressed is not a reason to feel unworthy of compassion and self-love.
- Stay in touch with people who care about you. Share with them what you are going through so they know how to help you.
- Do something fun. Going out to dinner with a friend, listening to your favorite song, or enjoying a walk in your neighborhood can bring joy on a day when you might feel a little down.
- Redirect your thinking. When you feel negative thinking coming on, focus on the positive. Think about what went well rather than focusing on what went wrong during your day.
- Be active. Physical activity or exercise can make you feel better and improve your outlook. Experts recommend getting 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. You don’t have to go to a gym to be active. Walking for 10 -15 minutes daily can improve your heart health and help you sleep better.
- Set small, achievable goals. Setting and not reaching an unrealistic goal may cause you to give up on something you want to do. Rather than setting a goal to walk two miles each day, walking for 10 minutes three days a week is more reasonable.
- Follow your healthcare provider’s advice. Practice what you learned during therapy, and if you take medication for depression, always take it as prescribed.
You Can Get Help for Persistent Depression
If you have symptoms of persistent depression, don’t keep isolating yourself and suffering needlessly. FHE Health offers treatment programs to assist you, and our therapists are ready to help you identify the underlying causes and triggers. We’ll evaluate your situation and help you select the best treatment program, whether inpatient or outpatient treatment. Call us today to speak with one of our compassionate counselors; they are available 24/7 to explain our program and discuss the next steps.