Dysthymic Disorder Is Nothing to Take Lightly
By Paul Rothbart
Depression is a problem that afflicts millions of Americans. For decades it was largely ignored and chalked up to just having the blues. Today, people are much more aware of mental health, and depression is being recognized as a serious health problem that requires treatment. Many people think of the deep, dark type of depression that causes suicidal thoughts. There are, however, many kinds of depression and they don't all show symptoms that severe. Dysthymic disorder is one example of a form of depression that affects huge numbers of people who don't even realize they have it. The symptoms are subtle but it is no less debilitating. I've had dysthymia since childhood and it was undiagnosed for a long time.
The symptoms of dysthymic disorder are similar to those of other forms of depression but often not nearly as pronounced. Rather than sheer hopelessness, sufferers feel lethargic. Not feeling like participating in any kind of activity, even those one truly enjoys is a very common symptom. Coupled with this is a lack of energy and an avoidance of physical activity. Withdrawing from social situations is very common. Dysthymia is a long-lasting form of depression and can hang on for months or even years. In fact, it generally lasts at least two years. It's hard to diagnose and the person with the disorder may not even recognize that they are having symptoms.
Dysthymic disorder is treatable and has a good success rate. Medication is commonly prescribed as there is usually a chemical imbalance that results in insufficient serotonin levels in the brain. This hormone is one of the feel-good chemicals that improve mood. Antidepressants such as SSRIs are the most commonly used in treatment.
Psychotherapy has also proven to be effective for treating the disorder. It can take many months, but seeing a psychologist weekly along with taking an antidepressant can get dysthymia under control.
What You Can Do to Help
If you experience any of the typical symptoms, don't assume everything is OK. Make an appointment with a mental health professional for a diagnosis. Even when successfully treated, you must be vigilant as dysthymic episodes can and do occur. It's important to know when it's happening so that you can take steps to curb it. Physical activity is one of the best ways to slow down dysthymia. Get out and get moving. Do things that you enjoy and spend time with family and friends. Once you become attuned to the symptoms, you can take control and work your way out of them. Never hesitate to get professional help if it persists.
Depression is an all-too-common malady. Dysthymic disorder may seem mild, but it can have a negative impact on your life. Know the symptoms and get help. Mental illness doesn't have to ruin your life.
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