Dysthymia is a mood disorder characterized by chronic depression. It is also known as melancholy. This type of depression is less severe than major depression, and is usually described as mild depression, or the “bad state of mind”. No matter that it has less severe manifestations than the clinical depression; dysthymia typically lasts longer than major depression. Moreover, people affected with dysthymia usually have a chronic physical illness or an additional psychiatric disorder such as anxiety disorder, drug or alcohol addiction. In addition, these individuals are constantly at increased risk of developing major depression. Unfortunately, many of these individuals are never diagnosed of dysthymia, and they continue living in misery believing that depression is just a feature of their character.
Signs and symptoms of dysthymia
The most prominent feature of dysthymia is a long-lasting bad mood and depression that are constant but fluctuate in intensity. Typically, these individuals are overwhelmed by the feeling of hopelessness. They have extremely low self-esteem, twisted self-image and very low sex drive. Moreover, they appear very irritable, and they suffer from poor concentration and pronounced difficulty in making decisions. Usually, they either have very poor appetite or tend to eat too much. Similar ambivalence is observed in their sleeping patterns as they may suffer from insomnia or be extremely sleepy. However, symptoms of dysthymia exclude features typical for bipolar disorder: manic, hypomanic or mixed episodes.
What causes dysthymia and how it is diagnosed?
Dysthymia, similarly to major depression, runs in the families. According to the official statistics, women are two to three times more prone to developing this mood disorder. The condition is very hard to diagnose as many of the sufferers describe it as constant stress, which makes it hard to distinguish if the environmental causes stress or dysthymia causes symptoms of depression. An individual meets essential criteria for diagnosis if he or she is feeling depressed for the majority of days and parts of the day for at least two years.
Prevention of dysthymia
Unfortunately, there is no certain way to prevent dysthymia. This condition is partially inherited, and people may be predetermined for dysthymia since the early days. However, if dysthymia runs in the certain family, parents should pay special attention to their children and try to distinguish typical signs of this disorder in the early childhood. Parents should work on building healthy self-esteem in their children, and teach them how to manage excessive stress and deal with failures. Practicing relaxation techniques may also help to alleviate the symptoms.