There are different types of depression with varying severity of symptoms and longevity. Some may only appear in episodes, while others stay around for life. Types of depression include major depression, dysthymia, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, psychotic depression, postpartum depression, situational depression, and atypical depression.
Dysthymia (chronic depression) – although mild – lasts a long time. At any given moment, at least three percent of the population suffers from dysthymia, and over a lifetime six percent of the population may suffer from a depressive disorder.
Risk factors for dysthymia
Women are three times more likely to suffer dysthymia in comparison to men. Having a relative with depression also increases a person’s risk of developing dysthymia. Stressful life events, too, can increase the risk of dysthymia along with interpersonal dependency, where a person heavily relies on approval and reassurance from others.
Higher rates of dysthymia have also been seen in individuals who suffer sleep abnormalities. Moreover, dysthymia is 40 percent more likely to occur in individuals with a substance abuse problem.
Dysthymia commonly occurs in those aged 45 to 59. In fact, they are twice as likely to develop dysthymia, compared to someone younger, and three times more likely than those over the age of 60.
Causes and symptoms of dysthymia
Like many other causes of depression, much is still unknown about what triggers dysthymia. There are factors believed to play a role in the onset of depression, including:
- Biochemical: Physical changes occur in the brain.
- Genes: Dysthymia appears to be common in families with a history of depression.
- Environment: Life situations, stress, and finances may contribute to dysthymia.
Although symptoms of dysthymia are not as severe as the symptoms of major depression, they do occur over time.
Symptoms of dysthymia include:
- Loss of interest in activities
- Tired, lack of energy
- Low self-esteem, self-critical
- Trouble focusing and concentrating
- Irritability, anger
- Reduction in productivity
- Avoidance of social settings
- Worry or feeling of guilt
- Lack of appetite or overeating
To be classified as dysthymia, the symptoms must persist over the course of two years. Episodes of sadness and feeling down may be indicative of other forms of depression or simply attributed to having a bad day.
If symptoms interfere with your daily life – inability to work or maintain relationships – and have stuck around for a while, that is when you should seek treatment.
A person with dysthymia may develop major depression as well – this is known as double depression.
Treatment and prevention of dysthymia
Common treatment options for dysthymia are medications and talk therapy. There are some factors to consider when choosing an appropriate form of treatment. They are:
- Severity of symptoms
- Desire to address emotional and situational issues
- Personal preference
- Previous treatment methods
- Ability to tolerate medications
- Other emotional issues
Antidepressants are a common form of dysthymia medication, but they can have many side effects. Therapy, then, offers a viable source of treatment, which allows you to explore yourself emotionally and work through any issues you may have.
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, can help a patient establish coping skills for dealing with everyday life. It can also help improve adherence to medications and promote a healthier lifestyle. Psychotherapy can be one-on-one, in a group session, or with your family and friends.
Home remedies for dysthymia include:
- Not partaking in alcohol or drug use
- Recognizing warning signs
- Knowing the facts about dysthymia
- Sticking to your given treatment plan
- Staying physically active
Because there isn’t a pinpointed cause for dysthymia, prevention isn’t as clear. Some steps one can take to try and prevent dysthymia are to control stress levels, maintain a strong social group, get treatment early on, and receive long-term care to prevent a relapse.