Drowning with Dysthymia? Here is What You Need to Know…

Many people suffer from depression. In fact, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, worldwide. While some people may only experience depression periodically, depression can be debilitating for others. Depression is actually the leading cause of disability. 

The “debilitating” type of depression can be crippling. For many people, the effects of depression manifest themselves in their jobs as well as in their personal lives. The consequences of prolonged depression are quite serious.

There are several different types of mood disorders that resemble depression or manifest depressive symptoms. Sometimes, personality disorders or anxiety disorders can have symptoms similar to those found in major depression. 

The good news is that depression is a treatable mental disorder. In fact, those suffering from depression often see high success rates once they make the decision to go into treatment. 

<H2>What is Dysthymia or Persistent Depressive Disorder?</H2>

There are several types of mood disorders that seem like a double depression or symptoms of depression. However, dysthymia is a persistent depressive disorder, one that is best characterized as  mild, chronic depression.

Symptoms of dysthymia can often seem like a person just is in a perpetually down cycle. However, unlike bipolar disorder, there are no upcycles. The down cycle isn’t as pronounced as in a particular mood disorder. 

In many cases, dysthymia and cyclothymia get conflated. This form of depression also appears as chronic low-grade depression or low-grade depression.

A person suffering from dysthymia will often seem down, mopey, or generally sad. Dysthymia also does not target a specific type of person; it can affect any person. The causes of dysthymia do not have any particular relationship to genetics. However, in some cases, family history may play a role. Researchers are studying several patterns, including brain chemistry irregularities. Some depressive symptoms can arise from substance abuse issues. 

Some other issues that could cause dysthymia include major life events such as a death of a loved one or a diagnosis of a major illness. Ultimately, the causes of dysthymia are mysterious. The good news is dysthymia patients have an array of options for treatment of dysthymia to help them get back on the road to mental health.

Although dysthymia affects only 1.5 percent of Americans (predominantly women) each year, it is still a form of depression that requires attention. 

<H2>Dysthymia or Depression Symptoms</H2>

There are several different symptoms for dysthymia, many of which overlap with other depressive disorders. These depressive disorders include major depressive disorder, cyclothymia, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders. 

Understanding the symptoms and how they affect patients is critical for practitioners and loved ones to help the affected patient. In some cases, these symptoms are fairly easy to spot. In other cases, they may be less overt. Regardless, a trained mental health professional can usually determine the root cause of the issue, and rule out the type of depressive disorder that is affecting the patient.

People with dysthymia experience the following symptoms:

  • Sadness: This can be manifested as a sad or depressed mood. Clinicians look for patients who seem down all the time. Moreover, the sadness may not have a specific cause. This is usually an indication of a biological condition that involves irregular neurotransmitters that affect moods.

  • Loss of Enjoyment: Patients with dysthymia often lose enjoyment in their favorite activities. For example, a person who loves listening to music may stop listening to it or enjoying it altogether. This is a problematic, and a sure-fire sign of dysthymia. This can become an incredibly serious issue over a prolonged period of time.

  • Weight Fluctuation: A person who gains or loses 5 percent of body weight within a month typically deals with mood issues. This is because food is often used as a form of self-medication for people who are depressed. The deprivation of food could also be a patient’s way of gaining control over something when they feel as if they lack control in their lives. Weight fluctuations can eventually lead to eating disorders along with chronic depression issues.

  • Unusual Sleep Patterns: This is another symptom that manifests in multiple ways. Dysthymia can sometimes manifest in insomnia. When a person can’t sleep, this is typically a sign that the depressed mind can’t calm down.

    On the other hand, another sign of depression is a lack of activity, such as if a person is sleeping far more than the eight hours a day.

  • Physically Rundown: A person suffering from dysthymia may display obvious signs of lethargy, which could be connected to a physical ailment, yet the ailment itself is not present.

  • Fatigue: In addition to signs of being rundown, there is a noticeable loss of energy displayed by a person with dysthymia. This person usually ends up sleeping more along with other symptoms as a result from chronic fatigue.

  • Feelings of Hopelessness and Guilt: People displaying these symptoms often believe hyperbolically that they are the reason for their problems. The guilt is excessive, and they show little hope that things will improve. This is a chronic symptom, and its appearance over weeks and months is indicative of a person dealing with serious, long-term depression dysthymia.

  • Poor or Lack of Concentration: People who are depressed struggling with staying focused on a task. Negative feelings often get in the way of focusing on completing a project. This can end up causing a vicious cycle as finishing a task or project is one of the best ways one can feel better about him or herself.

  • Suicidal Ideation: This is to be taken very seriously. Some people may just talk about it, while others go through with it. If someone mentions suicide, it is critical to get him or her help immediately. Fortunately there are many different resources available to guide the person into counseling. 

<H2>Dysthymia Test | Diagnosis</H2>

Mental health practitioners typically diagnose dysthymia through therapy and assessing symptoms. The key with the presence of dysthymia is the symptoms are present for at least a two-year period. Many clinicians will note a patient’s symptoms and refer to the DSM-V to verify the type of depression. It is key for a clinician to distinguish whether the symptoms are mild or acute. 

There are several other factors that go into the diagnosis as well. Many therapists will refer a patient for various blood tests to check different neurotransmitters. The goal is to rule out these types of biological issues to see if depression is a mood disorder or another issue that requires a referral to a psychiatrist who would prescribe medication. 

Unfortunately, dysthymia isn’t something that can be diagnosed with simple medical tests. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the therapist to ensure that the patient meets the necessary criteria for dysthymia rather than other types of depressive disorders. Diagnosing the correct type of depression greatly affects the different treatment modalities.

<H2>Dysthymia Treatment</H2>

As mentioned briefly above, like most depressive disorders, dysthymia is extremely treatable. In fact, dysthymia has a relatively successful treatment rate when compared with other types of depression. 

There are several different ways to treat dysthymia. Depending on the severity of the case, antidepressants may be part of treatment, but only for a temporary period of time. One of the most beneficial ways to treat dysthymia is through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The reason why CBT is so effective is because patients get the cognitive tools they need to process stimuli in a healthy way. CBT also helps patients reorient their behavior, allowing them to engage in a reward cycle that will motivate them to avoid the depressive acts and thoughts. 

Some of the more successful antidepressants include tricyclic antidepressants. Other medicinal treatments include reuptake inhibitors like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, regular serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and in double-blind placebo-controlled studies there are favorable results with St. John’s Wort. 

Of course, the key for helping people is long-term treatment. In most cases, pharmaceutical solutions are prescribed for neurotic depression while an affective disorder may result in different treatment. Dysthymia can be treated and controlled simply by maintaining a well-balanced diet, giving up bad habits like smoking, and engaging in physical activity each day. Exercise is scientifically proven to release endorphins, which increase positive feelings of happiness and enjoyment.

<H2>Dysthymia: Final Thoughts</H2>

Understanding the different symptoms and how these symptoms are pervasive for more than two years helps people appreciate the depth of this disorder. Like nearly every depressive disorder, the prognosis is excellent once beginning treatment. If you or someone you know feels unnaturally down all the time, then seeking help is a great way to beat this disorder. 

Though dysthymia is fairly easy to treat, many people still struggle with this persistent depressive disorder. Thanks to different therapies, people with dysthymia have hope that their tomorrows will be better than their todays. 

Sources: 

https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/chronic-depression-dysthymia#1

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/persistent-depressive-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20350929

http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/January-2018/Understanding-Dysthymia

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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