It's All In Your Head

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Dysthymia is a low grade (ha ha) depression that is longer lasting then clinical depression, but whose symptoms are less severe.  Meaning that, as my therapist once explained to me, once you “push through” it in the morning you should be able to get on with your day, but that initial push is EXTREMELY hard.  Don’t be fooled by the fact that it symptoms aren’t as severe - due to the long lasting nature of the illness it’s effects have a tendency to impact functioning just as much (or worse) then clinical depression.

In order to be diagnosed with dysthymia, unlike clinical depression, symptoms must last at least 2 years instead of a few months.  To quote the wiki:

Dysthymia has a number of typical characteristics: low drive, low self-esteem, and a low capacity for pleasure in everyday life. Mild degrees of dysthymia may result in people withdrawing from stress and avoiding opportunities for failure. In more severe cases of dysthymia people may even withdraw from daily activities.[4] They will usually find little pleasure in usual activities and pastimes. Diagnosis of dysthymia can be difficult because of the subtle nature of the symptoms and patients often can hide them in social situations making it challenging for others to detect symptoms. Additionally, dysthymia often occurs at the same time as other psychological disorders, which adds a level of complexity in determining the presence of dysthymia, particularly because there is often an overlap in the symptoms of disorders.[5]

Co-existance with major depressive disorder is high (don’t I know it) - this is known as “double depression.” According to the NIH dysthymia affects 5% of the population. 

How to tell if you have dysthymia:

The symptoms of dysthymia are the same as those of major depression but have have lasted several months or years (yes many people go untreated for years because they feel that being depressed is just a part of who they are since dysthymia lasts so long):

  • sadness or depressed mood most of the day or almost every day
  • loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable
  • major change in weight (gain or loss of more than 5% of weight within a month) or appetite 
  • insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day
  • physically restless or rundown that is noticeable by others
  • fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or excessive guilt almost every day
  • problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day
  • recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide plan, or suicide attempt
If any of these apply to you and they have lasted several months and/or years please please please talk to a counsellor, doctor, pdoc, ANYONE about this.  Especially if they’ve lasted for years.  Being depressed IS NOT a natural part of ANYONE’S personality no matter how much you think it is.  I was one of those who thought that it was just a part of who I was, but when I started treatment for my PTSD I found out that no, I had dysthymia, and my life got SO MUCH BETTER.  Please don’t be like me and GET HELP NOW.  
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