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Double Depression Dims Hopeful Outlook

Hopelessness, a hallmark of depression, tends to be even
worse in double depression, a new study shows.

Never heard of double depression? The term refers to chronic, less-severe
depression (dysthymia) that worsens into major depression.

Double depression isn't a new condition. But it's making news in the August
edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders.

The journal includes a study on double depression by researchers including
Thomas Joiner, PhD, Distinguished Research Professor and the Bright-Burton
Professor of Psychology at Florida State University.

They found heightened levels of hopelessness among patients with double
depression, compared with patients with major depression or dysthymia
alone.

In light of the findings, therapists should watch for hopelessness
"early and often" in treating patients with double depression, Joiner
says in a Florida State University news release.

Double Depression and Hopelessness

Joiner and colleagues studied 54 people treated for double depression, major
depression, or dysthymia at a Florida outpatient psychiatric clinic for older
adults.

All of the patients were at least 55 years old. Forty of the patients had
major depression, eight had double depression, and six had dysthymia.

The patients completed surveys about their depression, anxiety,
hopelessness, and feeling of control (or lack thereof) over their lives.

Patients with double depression reported "high levels of hopelessness,
whereas patients with either major depression or dysthymia alone showed more
moderate levels of hopelessness," write Joiner and colleagues.

"A patient who is hopeless has really just given up," Joiner says in
the news release. "They feel like the world is against them, the future is
bleak, and they are incapable of fighting back."

In addition, patients with double depression or dysthymia alone reported
feeling less control over their lives than patients who only had major
depression.

The study included a relatively small number of patients, which may mean it
doesn't represent all patients with double depression, major depression, or
dysthymia.

"We hope that our preliminary findings serve as a springboard for future
studies investigating the phenomenon of double depression," Joiner's team
writes.

No matter what type of depression you have, get help. Depression can often
be treated.

Depression symptoms include:


  • Persistent sadness, pessimism

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, including sex

  • Difficulty concentrating and complaints of poor memory

  • Worsening of co-existing chronic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or
    diabetes

  • Insomnia or oversleeping

  • Weight gain or loss

  • Fatigue, lack of energy

  • Anxiety, agitation, irritability

  • Thoughts of suicide or death

  • Slow speech; slow movements

  • Headache, stomachache, and digestive problems


People with major depression have at least five depression symptoms for at
least a two-week period. People with dysthymia have fewer and less-intense
symptoms that are long-lasting.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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