Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

Persistent Depressed Mood and Its Solution

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | May 18, 2014 1:30 PM

In the old Freudian days, we used to call a persistent state of mind depressive neurosis. Then, it became dysthymic disorder. But, that term of "feeling negative" doesn't really decribe the person well. This person has an undertone of "down," pessimism, self-depreciation, and lack of joy. While he can laugh at times and feel OK temporarily, his general tendency is low, bluesy, and negative. It's hard to please him. He tends to project his own feelings of failure on others, criticizing easily. More often, the female depressive cries a lot, recriminates herself repetitively over past mistakes and failures, and envies others.

Depressive personality isn't like Clinical Depression or Major Depression. It's milder and consistent in a less dramatic way. It doesn't include pervasive suicidal thinking and is easily-masked with smiles, social skills, and accomplishments. Sometimes, the depressive person deals with the underlying sadness with compulsive habits, either negative ones like overeating or more approved ones like too much exercise.

Depressive personality isn't like Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood, which is a reaction to actual events, like loss, grief, disaster, illness, etc., but not as severe as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It's just there, regardless of circumstances, though it can certainly exacerbate with unhappy events. It can coexist with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, ADHD, and other problems.

There's a happy ending for the person with Depressive persoality or disorder who is motivated to change. It involves rethinking negative thoughts, lsuch as earning to reframe events with a more grateful attitude or practicing meditation and focus on good things, like nature and love. Taking self and life less seriously but more positively happens gradually, as cognitive and emotional  habits develop and change slowly. Medication usually isn't the answer here. It's about working with the self, not a quick fix but a lifelong process.

I just saw someone make this transition over a year and it is truly a beautiful thing to watch. It's not that, like everyone, there will never be a low moment or week, around difficult events, but there's a quiet strength and refuge inside from which self-therapy and healing now come. Once adopted, it takes hold and isn't lost. The person now is fortified and bigger emotionally, more adaptable, resourceful and available to self and others. I'm always in awe when I see it, believing I was instrumental as a psychologist but what happens takes more than I can ever offer, is beyond me and truly due to the interaction between the patient and forces we don't understand. Call it spiritual, not in a religious way, if you want. Anyway, I'm impressed.

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