Understanding Chronic Depression, Dysthymia

Dysthymia (dysthymic disorder, chronic depression) is a form of “mild” depression that is ongoing, lasting 2 years or more in adults or 1 year or more in children and teens, and affects 10.9 million Americans aged 18 and up.

Like many of the different types of depression, dysthymic disorder can have crippling effects on the sufferer and her family Why did I say, “Her?” because dysthymic disorder affects women much more often than it affects men.

Symptoms of Dysthymic Disorder

Do you have dysthymic disorder?  If you are an adult and have had the following symptoms for at least 2 years, you may be suffering from dysthymia:

  • Feelings of  worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness
  • Persistently low self-esteem
  • Changes in appetite, whether it’s eating significantly more or less
  • Loss of Interest in life, self, things that once interested you
  • Persistent Feelings of Guilt
  • Sleeping Issues, sleeping too much or not enough, Insomnia
  • Chronic Fatigue,
  • Loss of Motivation (everything feels like a chore)
  • Hard time making decisions, even minor ones
  • Difficulty Concentrating, Dysthymia is often misdiagnosed as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
  • Anxiety & Panic Attacks
  • Persistent and unexplained aches and pains
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.
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What Causes Dysthymic Disorder?

As with most conditions of depression, the causes of dysthymia can vary from person to person.  While some doctors look life stressors as the main culprit, others focus on changes in brain chemistry and serotonin.  Still others look at a combination of the two.

People living with dysthymia have trouble coping with change, especially if that change is a metaphorical curve ball that smacks them in the face.  Recovering from such a blow is difficult for sufferers of dysthymic disorder.

Life stresses that can cause dysthymic disorder or make its symptoms worse include:

  • Medication
  • Chronic Illness (self or a loved one)
  • Work Issues
  • Relationship Problems
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Why Dysthymia or Chronic Depression is also called “Mild” Depression?

Mild depression is misleading when describing dysthymia.  However dysthymic disorder isn’t as severe as major depression that keeps a sufferer from completing most daily tasks on a regular basis.  People living with dysthymia may lack energy and motivation, but are generally able to handle their day-to-day talks and obligations for the most part.  Of course, some days are better than others.

Dysthymia patients have been described as people who function fairly well on a daily basis but are consistently unhappy.

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What are the Treatments for Dysthymia?

Dysthymia, like most forms of depression, are treated in the following ways:

  • Lifestyle Changes
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Spend more time outdoors
  • etc
  • Therapy
  • Medication
  • Socializing
  • Time with friends
  • More time with supportive family members
  • More time doing the things they love

I was in therapy for several years, off and on. However, I am not currently in any form of therapy.

To treat my dysthymic disorder, I have tried various lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise, spending more time outdoors, and getting more sleep to ensure.

I socialize as much as I can (not online).  I take my kids out to play dates with people we enjoy spending time with.

I currently take Prozac and Effexor.  I have also tried Paxil.  Different medications work for different people, so a discussion with your doctor and some trial and error will occur during treatment if you decide to pursue medication for depression.

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Do you think you have Dysthymic Disorder?

Make an appointment to see a therapist or doctor as soon as possible.  If you are currently contemplating hurting yourself or ending your life, call 9-1-1 immediately and contact a friend or family member.