Have you ever been told you’re a pessimist? Do you regularly feel down? You might not be clinically depressed, but you may actually suffer from Dysthymic Disorder.
The major difference between clinical (major) depression and dysthynic disorder is that individuals who suffer from the latter experience milder symptoms than individuals who experience major depression. Individuals who suffer with dysthymic disorder appear or feel depressed most of days and for more days than not for a duration of two years or longer (American Psychological Association, 2000). More specifically, dysthymic individuals do not experience a lack of depressive symptoms for more than two months at a time. Thus, individuals with this condition do not get a break from their depressive symptoms often.
When individuals suffering from dysthymia experience the mild symptoms of depression, they can experience many of the following: increase or decrease in appetite, hopelessness, feeling hopeless, difficulty sleeping, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, and/or low energy or feelings of fatigue (American Psychological Association, 2000).
Some people might try to discount this condition, claiming that mild depression is not significant. However, because the symptoms are experienced for such a long duration of time, dysthymia does cause impairment for individuals who suffer with it. For instance, work performance may be affected by difficulties with concentration or sleep deprivation. Relationships may suffer due to the individual’s constant depressed mood.
You might be surprised to know that according to the American Psychological Association (2000) 6% of the population suffers from dysthymia! Adults and children and adolescents alike can suffer from the condition. Children and adolescents only need suffer one year of mild depressive symptoms in order to be diagnosed. While an equal number of male and female children and adolescents suffer with the condition, female adults are two to three times more likely to suffer from dysthymia than men.
Parents should not only watch for the signs of depression mentioned above, but they should also watch for drops in school performance, withdraw from family or friends, and irritability in their children or teenagers. These are additional signs that young individuals may be suffering with dysthymic disorder.
According to the American Psychological Association (2000), dysthymia often has an early onset and a chronic course. Treatment for dysthymia can include psychotherapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy, with or without the use of anti-depressants.
Dysthymia affects all aspects of an individual’s life and should be taken seriously. If you think you know someone who might be suffering from this condition, encourage him or her to seek professional help. Treatment with anti-depressants and/or psychotherapy may improve the quality of life for individuals who suffer from dysthymic disorder.