What Is Long-Term Depression? Triggers, Symptoms, and Effects
Long-term depression is a long period of feeling low or depressed. The feelings of long-term depression can last for days, months, or even years. It is simply a long-lasting version of the normal mood swings that everyone goes through. Long-term depression can affect your daily life and have a long-lasting effect on your life.
This condition is also known as dysthymia. It may significantly interfere with your daily activities such as work and social interaction and because this condition is common, it should be considered a crucial health problem.
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Symptoms of Long Term Depression
Long-term depression is more than a state of feeling sad. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems. Some depression symptoms may affect your body, while others affect your mood. Symptoms can include:
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.
- Weight gain or weight loss, without trying to change your eating habits.
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
- Fatigue, tiredness, and lack of energy.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
- Sleep problems, such as insomnia or sleeping too long.
While depression may affect everyone, men and women experience long-term depression differently. Women tend to experience long-term depression more severely than men. However, long-term depression can affect anyone, regardless of age and gender.
Causes of the Long Term Depression
Most long-term depression causes are not known. When long-term depression begins in childhood, the genesis may be genetic. In adulthood, long-term depression may get triggered by stressful events in life, such as trauma.
Long-term depression symptoms may result from an ongoing stressful situation or event. The symptoms may also come from long-term exposure to stress hormones, cortisol. Common causes include:
- Family History – Depression may run within a family, and it increases the chances of you becoming depressed yourself.
- Personality – If you have a personality trait that makes it difficult for you to deal with stress, your risk of developing long-term depression is higher. For instance, if you tend to worry a lot, you are sensitive to criticism, a perfectionist, or have low self-esteem.
- Medical Conditions – Certain medical conditions may increase the risk of long-term depression. For example, if you have an auto-immune disease or live with chronic pain, your risk of long-term depression is higher.
- Life Events – If you experience a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one or other stressful life event, you are more likely to become depressed.
- Stressful Events – Some events in your life can trigger stress hormones in the body that can cause long-term depression symptoms. These events may include the death of a loved one, divorce, and economic problems.
- Early Childhood Trauma – Long-term depression symptoms may result from a stressful event that occurred before the age of 12.
- Drug and Alcohol Use – If you use drugs or alcohol to help you cope with stressful situations, your risk of long-term depression is higher.
About 21% of people who have a history of drug and alcohol abuse experience symptoms of depression. Many other factors may influence who gets this condition and who doesn’t.
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Long-Term Depression Treatment
To find out whether you may have long-term depression or a medical condition that causes it, get a depression test. A test is a critical step in finding out how to prevent long-term depression. The test can also help determine whether your depression may be related to other physical or mental health conditions.
Although there is no single test to determine whether you have depression, healthcare providers will diagnose you based on psychological evaluation and your symptoms. During the depression evaluation, your health provider will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. He will also perform a physical exam to help rule out other causes of your symptoms.
In most cases, a healthcare provider will ask questions about your:
- Sleep patterns
- Feelings and moods
- Energy levels, appetite, weight, and eating habits
- Your thoughts of death or suicide
- Health history
Depression can also emanate from other health problems. Therefore your healthcare provider will also conduct blood work and examine your physical well-being. Sometimes deficiency in vitamin D or thyroid problems may trigger long-term depression symptoms.
Lastly, long-term depression can get treated effectively with medication and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a type of talk therapy, which teaches you skills to deal effectively with the stressors in your life and cope better with long-term depression symptoms.
Effects of Long-Term Depression
There are many ways in which depression affects you, including your brain. Here are a few effects of long-term depression on your brain:
Amygdala is a part of your brain that handles the emotional response. When you have long-term depression, your body produces cortisol in excess and affects the amygdala. The excess cortisol prevents the amygdala from doing its job. At this stage, you are no longer able to initiate an emotional response to situations appropriately.
Hippocampus is a part of your brain which handles learning and memory, and as a result of long-term depression, it shrinks. When Hippocampus gets damaged, you have problems with short-term memory. It makes it harder to remember and get things done. You also lose certain skills that they have learned and practiced in the past.
Prefrontal Cortex is the outermost layer of your brain that acts like a command center that regulates emotions and behavior. When depressed, your body produces excessive glucocorticoid. It damages this layer and makes it difficult for you to tackle problems and make decisions.
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Risk Factors of the Long Term Depression
If you are experiencing any effect of depression, there are other possible risks that you may experience. The longer you experience these effects, the more severe these risks will become. They include:
- Malnourishment – Malnourishment is a serious risk of depression. It impairs your ability to think, absorb information and act effectively. If you have long-term depression, you will lose appetite and not eat enough. It will lead to difficulties in thinking, remembering things, reacting quickly, and making decisions.
- Obesity – Obesity is another serious risk of long-term depression. With long-term depression, you may not move around much, which leads to poor eating habits and obesity. Being obese impairs your body’s ability to function effectively because most energy gets consumed digesting food. Excess weight can also cause diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.
- Workplace Performance – Long-term depression can also affect your work performance. You may start coming late to the office, making careless mistakes, and getting angry at people. Your work performance will deteriorate and get a poor review from your employers. It could lead to your getting fired if the condition continues.
How to Prevent Long Term Depression?
One of the best ways to prevent depression is by controlling your stress. Ensure you learn a healthy coping skill such as meditating. By doing so, you can reduce your long-term depression or prevent it from developing.
If your stress comes from an untreatable medical condition, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help you control long-term depression. For example, if your long-term depression symptoms are related to over-activity of the stress hormone cortisol, your provider may prescribe medicine to lower cortisol levels.
Another important point in preventing long depression is learning to recognize signs and symptoms. Learning to recognize the symptoms of long-term depression and getting help as soon as possible goes a long way in reducing the chances of developing.
In most cases, long-term depression symptoms can get treated successfully with therapy and medication. However, if you suspect that your long-term depression comes from a medical condition and treatment has not worked, talk to your healthcare provider.
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Start Your Long Term Treatment Journey Today
If you have been feeling sad and hopeless for more than two weeks, contact a health care provider who can help you figure out if you have long-term depression. Contact us at Mango Clinic for long-term depression treatment or click the banner below to book your appointment.