What Are The Effects Of Long-Term Depression?
Persistent symptoms of long-term depression can cause physical, emotional, social, and economic repercussions that may impede functioning. For some, depression may last for years, which can start to feel like a “new normal.” Individuals living with this challenge or the people they love may grow concerned about how the symptoms could affect their general health and well-being over time.
What is long-term depression?
There is no one definition or model for persistent depressive disorder or long-term depression. Several diagnoses may be given depending on your situation, and the diagnosis you receive may depend on how long you have had depression and the symptoms of depression present. Below are a few types of long-term depression.
Persistent depressive disorder (Dysthymia)
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), persistent depressive disorder, previously called dysthymia, is a type of depression that persists for two years or more. With dysthymia, symptoms of depression may not be as severe as with major depressive disorder, but they are consistently present and can cause functioning difficulties.
Double depression is defined as a bout of major depressive disorder soon after a diagnosis of persistent depressive disorder. With double depression, you may go from a mild long-term depression into a more severe major depression episode, returning to persistent symptoms afterward. While double depression can be difficult to treat, therapy, medication, or a combination approach may be effective.
Chronic major depressive disorder
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a depressive disorder in the DSM-5 that lasts for at least two weeks. For some people, major depression lasts longer than two weeks. Some people experience long-term depression that is debilitating and can cause major impacts. In some cases, chronic MDD can develop into treatment-resistant depression that doesn’t respond to standard treatments like therapy or medication.
Depression symptoms after partial remission
Relapses of symptoms may occasionally occur after depression is labeled in partial remission. Partial recovery may allow for improved social and professional functioning for some people. However, it may still involve prolonged sadness and distress.
Persistent depression and the brain
It is commonly believed that depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. However, this chemical imbalance, or side effects from the long-term depression itself, can cause additional changes to the brain and how it functions, particularly altering synaptic AMPA receptors, affecting Purkinje cells, and disrupting hippocampal synapses.
AMPA receptors control the speed of communication between nerve cells, while Purkinje cells are known as the largest neurons in the human brain. Research has looked at how long-term depression affects the brain. These effects are outlined below.
The hippocampus is the part of the brain that plays a significant role in learning and memory. Those struggling with long-term depression may encounter challenges with memory loss and short-term memory due to the chemicals produced in the hippocampus and how its synaptic activity affects brain function.
One of the chemicals produced in the hippocampus is cortisol. In times of physical or mental stress, the hippocampus produces more cortisol than necessary. This process is sometimes known as hippocampal long-term depression because excess cortisol in the hippocampus can have long-term impacts, leading to a slowdown in the production of new neurons. This slowdown can further cause neurons in the hippocampus to shrink, potentially leading to memory difficulties.
The amygdala is part of the brain that controls some emotions, including anger and fear, and encodes memory. The excess production of cortisol from the hippocampus during long-term depression can also affect synaptic response and strength in this part of the brain. As a result, the amygdala becomes enlarged and overactive, which may lead to difficulty managing stress and a cognitive bias toward perceiving the world and self as negative. An overactive amygdala can also cause sleep disturbances and changes in physical activity.
The prefrontal cortex is central to cognition and controls several processes in the brain, including impulse inhibition, attention, and cognitive flexibility. This crucial part of the brain shrinks when cortisol overproduction occurs. When the prefrontal cortex shrinks, it may inhibit people from being able to form new memories, make significant decisions, or control emotions.
For those experiencing long-term depression or persistent depressive disorder, some risks are not associated with brain changes or other physical factors. The longer a person is exposed to the effects of major depression, the higher the risk of these effects becoming acute.
There are ways to reduce the symptoms of depression or lessen their impact on your life. If treatments like medication and talk therapy have not reduced your symptoms, other inpatient treatments like low-frequency stimulation or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may improve synaptic plasticity and reduce symptoms. Consult a doctor or primary care physician before taking medication or trying medical procedures.
Physical health and long-term depression
People with long-term depression may often have thoughts related to low self-esteem, sadness, guilt, shame, and distress. For this reason, some may assume that depression is primarily an emotional condition. However, there are several impacts on physical health caused by depression, including but not limited to the following.
Researchers have found that people with long-term depression are at risk for cardiovascular deterioration. People who experience depression for a more significant period are at higher risk for heart attacks or heart disease. In addition, once a heart attack has occurred, those with major depressive disorder may find it more difficult to recover.
Depression can often cause changes in appetite. People living with long-term depression may find it difficult to eat or may experience a desire to binge on food. If an individual’s diet is inconsistent in nutrition and timing, malnourishment or weight gain can occur. Long bouts of depression may worsen these impacts.
The socioeconomic effects of long-term depression
There are a few socioeconomic effects of long-term depression that may affect your way of life. These impacts are common in people living with depression for many months or years. Like the challenges mentioned above, the risk for these effects increases as the exposure to stressors continues without care.
If you are living with long-term depression or persistent depressive disorder and feel socially isolated, you are not alone. Individuals with long-term depression report low self-esteem and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, potentially contributing to a disinterest in social events or hangouts.
Long-term depression may also impact your finances by affecting your workplace performance. One study found that workplace performance often decreases significantly when an individual is living with MDD, persistent depressive disorder, or another depressive disorder. The study also found that workplace performance can improve after treatment.
If you are having difficulty handling the stress and pressure of work, your workplace performance may take a direct impact. Sessions with therapists trained in treating persistent depression may provide you with guidance to work through these difficult symptoms and develop effective coping techniques.
If you have been living with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, persistent depressive disorder, or double depression without relief, you might benefit from talking to a therapist, counselor, or social worker. In addition, if you face barriers to treatment like financial insecurity or time, you can connect with a provider through an online therapy platform like BetterHelp.
Online therapy can be more flexible and accommodating of busy schedules than in-person therapy, as some online therapists can make themselves available outside of standard business hours. Additionally, online therapy platforms can be more affordable than traditional therapy sessions. These platforms may offer unique modalities while providing diverse, high-quality resources.
Studies also back up the effectiveness of online therapy. A study by the Berkeley Well-Being Institute found that people who used an online platform experienced a significant decrease in the severity of depression symptoms, comparable to results from studies on face-to-face treatment.
Does depression have short-term or long-term effects?
Clinical depression can have both short-term and long-term effects. For example, a few potential short-term effects of depression may include trouble sleeping, struggles with concentration, and physical symptoms like headaches.
Long-term effects of depression tend to be more likely to occur if the disorder is left untreated. Untreated depression can contribute to other mental disorders, such as alcohol abuse or drug abuse.
However, please know that treatment is available and can be very effective. If you aren’t successfully treated through common options like therapy, other alternative treatments, like transcranial magnetic stimulation, may prove to be helpful.
What is a long-term form of depression?
Long-term depression is sometimes referred to as persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia. This is generally defined as mild to moderate depression that doesn’t go away. In order to receive a diagnosis for this mental health disorder, you must usually experience symptoms for at least two years.
What are the long-term effects of youth depression?
Experiencing depression as a child or teenager can be very challenging, and it may have long-term effects. For instance, if you didn’t do well in school due to depression symptoms, this could impact your options related to continuing education or your eventual career path.
In addition, one study linked childhood depression to a higher risk of experiencing a variety of mental health concerns as an adult. These concerns may include anxiety, substance abuse disorders, worse social functioning and physical health, lower educational and financial achievement, and increased criminality.
How does depression affect your future?
Depression tends to impact everyone differently, and the way you respond to depression may determine how it affects your future. If you seek treatment for depression, you may overcome it, and it may not have much of an impact on your future. Conversely, untreated clinical depression may negatively impact your future, so it can be important to reach out for support.
What are the long-term effects of bad mental health?
Long-term impacts of poor mental health that go without treatment may include unemployment, substance misuse, poor quality of life, unnecessary disability, “suicidal ideation,” and homelessness. Some people may eventually attempt suicide if they don’t receive proper treatment. REMOVE LAST SENTENCE
If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please know that help is available. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime, 24/7, at 988.
Is long-term depression a mental illness?
Yes, persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia (other names for long-term depression) is typically categorized as a mood disorder, which is a type of mental illness.
What are the long-term mental effects of stress?
Chronic stress can contribute to the development of a variety of mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and more. These mental health concerns can be warning signs that it’s time to address your stress levels.
What are the long-term causes of mental illness?
Most mental illnesses tend to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. One of the notable risk factors may be close family members having mental health disorders. Your family history can play a role in whether you develop mental illness, but it isn’t the only important component.
Can long-term mental illness cause brain damage? Change to “Can long-term mental illness lead to changes in the brain?
Some forms of mental illness, such as depression, may cause changes to the brain.
What are three effects that mental illness has on a person's life?
Mental illness may impact a person’s relationships, school or work performance and overall quality of life. However, various types of treatment, ranging from individual and family therapy to medication and lifestyle changes, can help you heal. Please note that you should always consult your doctor or psychiatrist before starting or stopping any form of medication.
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