There are many factors that can cause a person to experience feelings of stress, anxiety, and hopelessness, especially during difficult times. While many write these feelings off as a natural state of life, an ongoing depressed mood along with other symptoms that affect your daily life can signal that you are experiencing low-grade depression.
A recent CDC report found 41.5-percent of American adults are suffering from symptoms indicative of an anxiety or depressive disorder. Even before the pandemic, data estimates that at least 1 in 6 adults suffer from depression at some point in life.
While major depressive disorder is widely discussed, many don’t realize that depression is a spectrum wherein the severity of it can vary. Low-grade depression is a common milder form of depression that, while not necessarily as evidently impairing as major depression, has a negative impact on daily life.
Symptoms of Low-Grade Depression
Symptoms of low-grade depression are similar to those of more severe depressive disorders. If you have experienced a depressed mood — characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest, and lethargy, among other things — for at least two weeks, then it is possible you are actually suffering from low-grade depression.
Low-grade depression has a different effect depending on the individual and can similarly vary in the length of time it lasts. The condition is recurring for certain patients, but is manageable and treatable with proper care and the right treatment plan.
If you suspect that you may be suffering from low-grade depression, Harvard Medical School cites the following symptoms to look for:
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness or lack of energy
- Low self-esteem
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness
Low-grade depression is often a functional form of depression wherein a person can go through the day and accomplish their tasks. However, the depression interferes with how you treat your life, work, social life, relationships, and interests. People can feel disinterested, low-energy, hopeless, and uncertain.
Causes of Low-Grade Depression
Factors that lead to low-grade depression are multiple. The cause of any form of depression cannot be isolated to one source, though there it is often possible to identify one or more significant factors that lead to the condition for individuals.
Low-grade depression can arise from a combination of genetic makeup, a chemical imbalance in the brain, surrounding environmental factors, and from high-stress and/or high-anxiety.
It is also possible that a person experiences depression alongside or because of another medical condition, which can be a mental health condition, mental illness, or other physical health issue.
Diagnosing Low-Grade Depression
If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms of low-grade depression listed above or similar, it is important to inform your doctor or seek consultation from a psychiatrist. Although your symptoms may be mild, they can become worse if left unaddressed and negatively affect your life.
Given the potentially mild nature of symptoms, adults often misinterpret the condition as a passing one — a “bad week” or “bad mood” — and brush it off accordingly. Due to this, many of those suffering from low-grade depression gradually become adjusted to it without receiving proper diagnosis and treatment.
As such, it is important to consider the symptoms of low-grade depression and reflect on whether or not you have been experiencing any of them fairly regularly and for an extended period of time longer than two weeks. The Cleveland Clinic outlines a series of helpful questions you can ask yourself to help you identify depression. Ask yourself and consider the following questions:
- Do you feel sad a lot?
- Are there particular reasons you feel down?
- Do you have trouble sleeping?
- Do you have trouble concentrating?
- How long have you had these symptoms?
- Are the symptoms there all the time, or do they come and go?
Make note of your responses to bring as reference when seeing a medical professional. Ultimately, it is best to consult with a psychiatrist to receive a proper diagnosis.
Treatment Options for Low-Grade Depression
There are many treatment options available to help with low-grade depression. Low-grade depression is very manageable and treatable with proper diagnosis, care, and an effective treatment plan.
Psychotherapy, generally referred to as therapy or behavioral therapy, is often a core aspect of treatment for low-grade depression, especially in the beginning. You meet with a psychiatrist who can help you unpack your thoughts and symptoms to better improve and alleviate your condition.
When appropriate, your psychiatrist may choose to prescribe medication to help with depression. Antidepressants are effective at alleviating symptoms of low-grade depression and allow people to return to their regular state of life.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is another effective treatment method for depression. This treatment involves stimulating certain areas of the brain that tend to be less active when suffering from depression. TMS therapy uses magnetic fields to stimulate those areas and balance chemical activity in the brain. It is completely non-invasive, painless, and can lead to complete remission of symptoms after completion.