There are many different types of depression, and dysthymia can be a particularly insidious type. Its symptoms are not as intense as those of regular depression, so it can be harder to diagnose, leading patients and people in the patients’ lives to simply write off the symptoms as stemming from a negative disposition. Despite the lack of clarity it presents, dysthymia can be treated and managed.
Dysthymia Symptoms and Scope
Dysthymia is also known as chronic depression because a depressive period of dysthymia can last for two years, if not longer. Like other forms of depression, this can mean:
- Lack of interest in hobbies and activities
- Constant fatigue
- Sleeping too much or sleeping too little
- Decline in job or school performance
- Unintended weight loss or weight gain
Unlike standard depression, however, the symptoms of dysthymia are not as severe or prevalent, but the tradeoff is that they persist for much longer than they do with standard depression. They will still disrupt daily life and cause tangible problems in interpersonal relationships and behavior. However, since dysthymia is not as potent and recognizable as standard depression, patients can go for decades without seeking treatment, completely unaware that they have a form for depression.
Around 1.5 percent of the adult population of the United States has dysthymia, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (although Psychology Today puts that figure much higher, at six percent). Women are two to three times more likely to develop dysthymia than men, probably due to combinations of genetics and hormonal factors.
Dysthymia and Double Depression
Since dysthymia is difficult to diagnose, a patient can experience periods of major depression, even while their dysthymia is in effect. This is known was double depression – which can again go untreated, because a patient has become so acclimatized to their depression that the onset of major depression is not considered out of the ordinary. Double depression can occur in more than half the people who have dysthymia.
Notwithstanding that dysthymia does not present itself as immediately damaging like standard depression, it can still cause significant and debilitating difficulty in managing everyday life, which PsychCentral calls a key diagnostic criterion.
Treating dysthymia follows the same pattern as treating standard depression. If a doctor determines that medication should be administered, SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are a popular choice. They work by stopping the brain from reabsorbing the serotonin neurotransmitter, and the continued presence of serotonin in the system can help boost mood and positive feelings. Common SSRIs include drugs like Prozac and Zoloft.
A second line of treatment involves psychotherapy, where a doctor teaches the patient new ways of thinking and behaving in relation to their dysthymia. This can be in the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which helps a patient understand the negative patterns of thought typical of dysthymia, and then change them into more positive and functional skills and management tactics. Other forms of therapy can include interpersonal therapy, where a patient learns how to cope with how dysthymia affects their relationships, and vice versa.
Dysthymia can be insidious, but there’s no reason it should be untreated or ignored. At Black Bear Lodge, we know the damaging effects of depression, and we want to help you make your life better. We can answer your questions on dysthymia and how treatment can help you manage and control your depression. Call us today.