Michelle Obama: What is low grade depression?

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Speaking to a guest on her podcast today, former FLOTUS Michelle Obama admitted she suffers from “low-grade depression”. During an interview with US journalist Michele Norris, she said a mix of current events had sent her into “emotional highs and lows”. But she added the unusual situation in the US required her to know “the things that do bring you joy”.

What is low-grade depression?

Low-grade depression is just one presentation of clinical depression, a disease millions of people have experienced to some degree.

Depression which doesn’t quite make the level of disorders like Major Depressive Disorder goes by a different name; dysthymia.

Pronounced dis-THIGH-me-ah, it is classed as a mood disorder which causes persistent low feelings.

Dysthymia is a problem which can impact people in many ways and may leave them feeling low for months or years on end.

Harvard Health describes dysthymia as “a dim grey compared to depression’s blackness”.

People will likely still feel happy at times, but low-grade depression will suck some of the enjoyment out of their lives.

They will also find they can continue with their daily lives without experiencing disabling symptoms.

Harvard Health said people could have dysthymia if they experience two or more of the following symptoms:

  • 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

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People will often find low-grade depression begins in early life and comes in waves, and it may also present alongside major depression.

In this case, doctors name the overarching disorder “double depression”.

While more severe cases of depression may come unprompted, life events often cause dysthymia.

Ms Obama said hers is the result of factors many people will relate with at this time.

She said: “I’m waking up in the middle of the night because I’m worrying about something or there’s a heaviness.”

The author added: “These are not, they are not fulfilling times, spiritually.

“I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression.

“Not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this [Trump] administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting.”

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