Do you know that about 3% to 6% of the world’s population is likely to suffer from a longstanding (chronic) form of depression called double depression? That translates to about 233 million to 466 million people. This is not a small number by any standards.
Double depression can interfere with the quality of your life by making you have suicidal behaviors or thoughts. This condition can be treated if diagnosed early enough. The only problem is that many people avoid getting help or delay going for treatment.
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What Is Double Depression?
Unlike normal depression, double depression is the co-existence of persistent depressive disorder (PDD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). PDD is also called dysthymia or dysthymic disorder. PDD is a low-grade but chronic psychiatric illness (depression) that lasts for not less than two years. MDD, on the other hand, refers to severe depression that involves most of the symptoms listed below:
- Suicidal thoughts/ behavior
- Reduced concentration
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Fatigue and low energy
- Slowed or jittery movements
- Sleep disruptions
- Changes in appetite
- Loss of interest in many activities
Although PDD is generally a moderate (or mild) form of depression, over 75% of people with this condition may experience bouts of chronic depression with worse symptoms that make them meet the criteria for MDD. When you have these two conditions (PDD and MDD) at the same time, you’ll be said to suffer from double depression. The causes of double depression include:
- Brain chemistry
- Brain changes
Characteristics of Double Depression that Make It Hard to Treat
If you suffer from double depression, your sense of hopelessness will be far worse than that of a person with PDD or MDD alone. This is because if you are suffering from double depression, a lot of changes will occur in your body. Some of these changes will increase your risk of medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The changes in your body and your brain will make it difficult to treat your condition.
Another issue that will complicate your treatment is that if you’ve suffered from depression for many months or years, you’ll likely resort to abusing street drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. It’s also highly likely that you’ll be eating unhealthy foods. Poor diet and an unhealthy lifestyle may result in health problems which will further complicate issues, making your recovery even harder.
Can Double Depression Be Prevented?
The short answer is “Yes”. You can use antidepressants to treat both MDD and dysthymia. However, it will take a long time for the drugs to work and they are more effective for treating MDD than dysthymia. Some experts also recommend cognitive therapy as a way of treating double depression. But, it’s better to use both – antidepressants and cognitive therapy.
It’s not advisable to start the two treatment methods at the same time. Experts advise that you start with one method, either antidepressants or cognitive therapy, watch its effects after a few months, then switch to the second method or add the second method so you can use the two of them concurrently.
Another way of dealing with double depression is exercise. By combining exercise and antidepressants, your recovery process can be accelerated. Doing so will also help you get high-quality and restful sleep. It’s known that lack of good sleep is one of the factors that worsen the sign of double depression.
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How Is Double Depression Diagnosed?
If you always feel depressed, see your mental health provider or physician as soon as possible. The physician will carry out laboratory tests and examine you physically to determine whether your depression symptoms result from double depression or other medical conditions. Currently, there’s no specific laboratory test for the diagnosis of double depression, MDD, or PDD.
An experienced physician or primary health care provider knows the symptoms of double depression. He/ she can also refer to a psychiatrist for evaluation. The expert may also ask you a few questions to determine whether you meet the criteria for MDD, PDD, or both. It’s imperative to answer the questions honestly for you to get help.
How Should Double Depression Be Treated?
Treatment for MDD and PDD are similar. The treatments involve psychotherapy, medication, or both. The treatment method can be tailored to suit your unique needs. Some antidepressants used to treat MDD and PDD are:
- MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
- Atypical antidepressants
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors)
- SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
To benefit from these medications, take them as prescribed. Don’t give up along the way because you may develop withdrawal symptoms. You have to be patient because the drugs can take some weeks before you start feeling their effects. Other methods of dealing with double depression include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
It’s upon your healthcare provider to decide which treatment or combination of treatment can work best in your case.
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We Are Here to Help
If you suspect that you are suffering from double depression, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible. The longer you delay, the harder it will be to treat your condition. At Mango Clinic, we’ve helped many patients with PDD, MDD, and double depression. We offer the best diagnosis and treatment for these conditions. Contact us to schedule an appointment.