Dysthymia, or dysthymic disorder, is a chronic form of depression where the symptoms are more mild compared to that of major depression. Even with less intense depression symptoms, dysthymia can have deeply profound effects for those that suffer from it. Dysthymic disorder afflicts roughly 6% of the general US population and an estimated half of those dealing with itwill have an episode of major depression at least once in their life. It also occurs less in men than it does in women.
The mild nature of the depression symptoms make it easier for those suffering from it to tolerate or ignore their condition completely. They may be unaware of their depression and usually can function normally and take care of themselves and hold down a job more effectively than someone who suffers from major depression. This can lead to a person with dysthymia to live with their disorder and go untreated for numerous years.
A person suffering from dysthymia may show any of the more common signs of depression, but the most frequent symptom is a constant somber, sad or dark mood. Some others may include:
- Fatigue and low energy
- Withdrawal or isolation in social situations
- Changes in appetite coupled with weight gain or weight loss
- Sleeping too little or sleeping too much
- Unable to concentrate or think clearly
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
In order to be diagnosed a combination of these symptoms but present themselves in the patient on most days for a period of two years or more. In children and teens, the criteria is lowered to at least a one year period.
Sufferers tend to have an overall negative view of themselves, their present situation, their future prospects or other people. They find tasks difficult to tackle and solve and may get frustrated easily while attempting to do so.
The exact cause of is not known. It has a tendency to run in families and is seen quite often in patients suffering from a physical condition that causes chronic pain. It is also seen in those with a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Anxiety and other mental disorders may also increase a person’s chance of having dysthymia.
Most cases of dysthymic disorder are undertreated or misdiagnosed. The less intense symptoms are more prone to be mistaken for another illness or condition. Complaints of physical symptoms may be confused with a chronic physical ailment for example.
Treatment usually consists of the prescription of anti-depressants as well as some form of psychotherapy. Popular depression medications such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft and Wellbutrin may be used to treat the disorder. Talk therapy and counseling can also help a person with dysthymia learn to cope with their symptoms and make them more aware of their illness as well as teach them to identify what makes their depression symptoms worse. Treatment for patients also takes a greater amount of time to be successful than with patients suffering from other types of depression.
While some people are able to be completely treated, for others the disorder is a chronic condition that may include extended yearly treatment. Persons suffering from dysthymia run the risk of having a major depressive episode. This can sometimes be referred to as double depression.
While it may not produce the same intense symptoms of major depression, it can still be rather disruptive to someone afflicted with the disorder. The more mild nature of dysthymic disorder symptoms can lead a person to not seek treatment for many years. All the while it can leave a person with an overall sad or dark mood, overly pessimistic to their current situation and their future hopes and it can leave them isolated. It can also disrupt their sleeping and eating habits. Even though it is not as severe as major depression, it can still have a great effect on the lives of those living with it.
Greater awareness by general health providers as well as patients can hopefully help those suffering with the illness to get treatment a lot sooner. If you or a loved one think you may be suffering with dysthymia then you should consult with a mental health care provider in your area. For more information on dysthymia check out the video below.