Health And Wellness

Dysthymia: The Depression No One Talks About

Photo: PLCNSK / Shutterstock
depressed girl laying in bed

Mental health issues are still something of a taboo subject, particularly in certain sections of society. It is improving but not as fast as I’d like. There also is nowhere near enough funding to treat mental health problems on the NHS. In the USA it’s even worse!

It has never been more important to pay attention to your mental health than now. Covid-19 and lockdown have had a massive impact on everybody.

If you don’t believe me consider the tragic case of Nikki Grahame of Big Brother fame. This beautiful, bright woman tragically lost her battle with anorexia over lockdown. Her mother blamed the effects of lockdown as the last straw.

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Although it didn’t help this poor soul, there are eating disorder support and knowledge out there.

There’s also a lot of discussion of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and even borderline personality disorder. What articles and social media don’t discuss, however, is dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder. That’s why I’m going to explain the symptoms of dysthymia in the hope it may encourage you to seek help if you feel you’re affected.

What Is Dysthymia?

Dysthymia is depression, normally mild to moderate, that lasts a long time. In adults, the minimum period is two years and a year for children and adolescents.

Needless to say, this is a long, long time to have a continually low mood. That’s why its name is now Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD).

To make it worse, you can actually suffer one or more periods of major depression while having PDD. This condition is “double depression”. Pretty awesome huh? Depression is bad enough on its own and now it can be doubled?

Because it goes on for so long it’s considered a separate condition although there is overlap between the symptoms of dysthymia and the symptoms of depression. I explained the symptoms of depression in detail here if you want to compare them.

Why Should I Be Concerned About Dysthymia

It’s a good question, and there are 2 parts to the answer. Firstly, because feeling mild to moderately awful for years can have a real impact on your life. You may feel you’re coping because you go to work, your house is tidy, you’re in a relationship, etc., but if you’re anything like me you’re not making the most of these things.

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I believe I could have made far more progress in school, university, and the workplace if I wasn’t in a constant battle with my mood. Also, it’s rare I really enjoy anything anymore which is a terrible thing to admit.

Secondly, you could be living with dysthymia and it could be negatively impacting your life without you realizing there’s anything wrong. Because the symptoms last so long and could be due to a number of causes a lot of the time sufferers believe it’s just how they are.

They accept feeling low, unfocused, and irritable because they aren’t aware they have a condition that can be treated. So if you’re reading this, please do me a favor? If you don’t share any of my other posts ever again, share this one. I want to get the word out and see people getting the help they need and deserve.

Symptoms of Dysthymia

Feeling down, sad, or empty. This may not be extreme, it’s only when you think about it you notice it’s always there.

Loss of interest in your daily life. You stop wanting to do things you used to enjoy and look forward to. For me, this is baking and playing games on my console.

Feeling hopeless. Having “what’s the point?, I can’t make x better” thoughts

Tiredness and lack of energy. This is vague, I know. You could have a physical illness, chronic fatigue, you may shrug it off as being lazy. You shouldn’t have any energy all the time, though.

Low self-esteem, feeling like you can’t do anything right, constantly putting yourself down.

Trouble concentrating is often called brain fog. You feel like your brain is moving too slowly or is wrapped in cotton wool.

Struggling to make decisions

Feeling irritable or irrationally angry about minor things. This was really hard for me to be sure of — all the women on my Mum’s side of the family are like that!

Becoming less productive. Accomplishing less at work, taking longer to do chores at home, not moving around as much.

Withdrawing from friends and family, feeling no desire to spend time with anyone.

Worrying and feeling guilty about the past, often for no reason.

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Disordered eating. This could be not eating much, eating for too much, emotional eating, and/or bingeing.

A range of sleep issues. You might sleep far more than you used to or you may struggle to fall and stay asleep.

What To Do

If these symptoms have struck a chord with you then go to see your doctor. It may not be as easy as a normal diagnosis of depression because, as I explained above, these symptoms could apply to a number of illnesses. A dysthymia diagnosis may be a process of elimination with tests ruling out physical causes first.

If you are diagnosed with dysthymia your doctor will probably suggest medication. This can be scary but read my piece on why I think they’re worth considering.

They may also suggest a talking therapy like CBT. Unfortunately, on the NHS there is quite a wait for this so check out if the company you work for offers any counseling programs via an employee assistance package. Many do, and it’s a good way to get help faster.

Try to get the same amount of sleep every night. Go to bed and get up at the same time, even on weekends. I admit this is one I struggle to achieve.

You should also try to build some exercise into your routine. I know you probably don’t feel like it but it really does help. Try starting with a short walk while listening to your favorite music, audiobook, or podcast and see how you get on.

Finally, stay in touch with family and friends. You need support and they may stop you from sinking deeper into your feelings of tiredness, hopelessness, and lack of interest in life. No matter how bad I feel, a hug always makes me feel better, even if it’s only half a percent.

Take Care

I hope one of the clear takeaways from my blog is how important it is to look after yourself. If you even think you could have mental health issues or recognised the symptoms of dysthymia in yourself, please seek help as soon as possible.

The sooner you do the sooner you can start getting your life back to the best version of it. This is not your fault and you deserve support. If you can tell anyone else, I’m always here to listen.

Claire McGregor is a fledgling writer taking her first tentative flights in the world of writing and her own blog. Check out her blog

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.