Dysthymia? I’ve never heard of that…

The term “Dysthymia” isn’t particularly common, yet it’s a state of chronic low mood, often with fewer or less serious symptons than major depression, experienced by many people.

The Greek word dysthymia means<>
“bad state of mind” or “ill humor.”

Dysthymia was first identified in 1980 and is increasingly being diagnosed as depressive illness in Britain. In its mildest form there will be many suffers who would never suspect they have some form of illness (see symptoms below). Or, when diagnosed, ‘they feel a fraud’ as they do not feel they have an illness that justifies such a diagnosis.

What more is there to Dysthymia then?

The main symptom of dysthymia is a low, dark, or sad mood on most days for at least 2 years. In children and adolescents, the mood can be irritable instead of depressed and may last for at least 1 year.

In addition, two or more of the following symptoms will be present almost all of the time that the person has dysthymia:

  • People with dysthymia will often take a negative or discouraging view of themselves, their future, other people, and life events
  • Problems often seem more difficult to solve.
  • A feeling that life is getting harder
  • Tiring easily,
  • Things once enjoyable start feeling like a chore,
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Doing tasks that were once easy seems more difficult.

What causes Dysthymia?

Experts are not sure what causes dysthymia. This form of chronic depression is thought to be related to brain changes that involve serotonin, a chemical or neurotransmitter that aids your brain in coping with emotions. Major life stresses, chronic illness, medications, and relationship or work problems may also increase the chances of dysthymia.

Who can I see about it?

A doctor will generally make a diagnosis based on the person’s symptoms. In the case of dysthymia, these symptoms will have lasted for a longer period of time and be less severe than in patients with major depression.With dysthymia, your doctor will want to make sure that the symptoms are not a result of substance abuse or a medical condition, such as hypothyroidism. He or she will perform a thorough medical evaluation, paying particular attention to your personal and family psychiatric history. There is no blood, X-ray or other laboratory test that can be used to diagnose dysthymia.

If you have had depressive symptoms for more than two weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor.

If it is not treated, dysthymia can turn into a major depressive episode. This is known as “double depression.”

What is the best treatment?

While dysthymia is a serious illness, it’s also very treatable. As with any chronic illness, early diagnosis and medical treatment may reduce the intensity and duration of depressive symptoms and also reduce the likelihood of a relapse.

To treat dysthymia, doctors may use psychotherapy, counselling, medications such as antidepressants, or a combination of these therapies.

What else can help?

Very much the same things used to treat Clinical Depression including lifestyle changes and self-help.

Useful Contacts

Dysthymia UK
Dysthymia on Patient.co.uk
Dysthymia Yahoo Group