What is chronic depression?

Depression is a strong feeling of sadness. Often people experience depression in response to a loss or sad event, such as divorce or unemployment. However, if the strong feelings of sadness, disconnection, and loss of interest in enjoyable activities persist past six to nine months, professional help may be needed. Unlike more common forms of depression, chronic depression (sometimes referred to by professionals as ‘chronic major depression’ or ‘dysthymia’) is long-lasting, possibly going on for years with only temporary relief from symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

The individual struggling with chronic depression may have difficulty sleeping, or want to sleep more than usual. He or she may experience changes in eating habits, feelings of hopelessness, low self-worth, low energy levels, restlessness, loss of interest in normal activities, difficulty maintaining relationships, decreased sex drive, feelings of guilt for no reason, and difficulty maintaining relationships. People with chronic depression have at least two of these symptoms for a period of two years or more. People with chronic depression can be gloomy and extremely critical of themselves and others. Due to the constant struggle with depressive symptoms, they may also be seen by others as extremely negative people, who seem to expect failure and take no pleasure in anything.

How is it treated?

Thankfully, there are treatment options for the individual struggling with chronic depression. Often typical treatments such as supportive therapy and psychotropic medications alone are not enough to help treat such a long-term problem. It is strongly recommended in the mental health literature for patients with chronic depression to participate in consistent, behaviorally-focused treatment along with a regime of anti-depressant medication.

A treatment protocol called Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy (CBASP for short) introduced by James P. McCullough from Virginia Commonwealth University is a promising cognitive-behavioral treatment that has been shown to help the chronically depressed patient recover from years of disconnection and dissatisfaction with their life and relationships.

We are intensively trained in CBASP treatment by Dr. McCullough and continue to receive on-going supervision from him to ensure fidelity to the model.

Where can I get more information on CBASP and the treatment of chronic depression?

Visit www.cbasp.org to connect to resources, books, the CBASP patient manual, and review articles outlining the scientific support for this approach to chronic depression.

Read “Treatment for Chronic Depression: Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy” by James P. McCullough, PhD to learn more about the theory and practice of CBASP.