What is dysthymia?

June 30, 2018

According to to the always trustworthy Wikipedia,

"Dysthymia, now known as persistent depressive disorder (PDD), is a mood disorder consisting of the same cognitive and physical problems as depression, with less severe but longer lasting symptoms".

Simply put, dysthymia (the ancient Greek term means "bad state of mind") is basically just a mild to moderate form of chronic depression, persisting for at least two years.

In my case, it lasted for over a decade, with periods of both dysthymia and double depression. I've had it for so long that I believed it was simply a part of my personality. Until I randomly came across the term "dysthymia" online, I never even considered that something could be wrong with me.

Being a chronic disorder, people with dysthymia may experience symptoms for many years before being diagnosed. Some people don't even get diagnosed at all. This is due to the fact that, just like me, they believe the symptoms to just be a part of their personalities, thus not discussing them with their friends or doctors.

There is no known biological cause for dysthymia, but there are some indicators that suggest the possibility of a genetic predisposition, as the rate of depression among family members of people who suffer from it can be up to 50% higher than in other families.

I later also found out that, the simple fact I have ADHD, also makes me more susceptible to have some form of depression. Because, as Jessica McCabe says, "ADHD comes with friends... and not the good kind".

Signs and symptoms

"Dysthymia characteristics include an extended period of depressed mood combined with at least two other symptoms which may include insomnia or hypersomnia, fatigue or low energy, eating changes (more or less), low self-esteem, or feelings of hopelessness. Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions are treated as another possible symptom. Mild degrees of dysthymia may result in people withdrawing from stress and avoiding opportunities for failure. In more severe cases of dysthymia, people may even withdraw from daily activities. They will usually find little pleasure in usual activities and pastimes. Suicidal behavior is also a particular problem with persons with dysthymia."

Just like ADHD, dysthymia often comes hand-in-hand with other mental disorders. It is even possible for dysthymia to occur simultaneously with major depression - this is called double depression. When a person suffering from dysthymia switches between periods of dysthymic moods and periods of hypomanic moods, it can also be a sign of cyclothymia, which is a mild variant of bipolar disorder.

"At least three-quarters of patients with dysthymia also have a chronic physical illness or another psychiatric disorder such as one of the anxiety disorders, cyclothymia, drug addiction or alcoholism."

"Common co-occurring conditions include major depression (up to 75%), anxiety disorders (up to 50%), personality disorders (up to 40%), somatoform disorders (up to 45%) and substance abuse (up to 50%)."

If you believe that either yourself or someone you know might be suffering from dysthymia or other mental disorder, always seek out professional help!

Go ahead, treat yourself to something else:


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