Dysthymia: everything you need to know about this mood disorder
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Dysthymia: everything you need to know about this mood disorder

Dysthymia is a mood disorder defined by a chronic depressive state. This long depression, less severe than clinical depression, nevertheless generates an alteration in the patient’s self-esteem, sleep, and ability to concentrate. Psychotherapy associated with drug treatment helps the patient suffering from dysthymia to get out of this lasting malaise.

What is dysthymia?

Definition of dysthymia

Formerly called neurotic depression, dysthymia is a mood disorder defined by a chronic depressive state. Dysthymia extends for at least two years, and sometimes even decades.

Dysthymia is expressed both through psychological symptoms – related to anxiety – and behavioral symptoms – character disorders – or physical symptoms – sleep and digestive disorders. If the patient can live almost normally, this long depression, less severe than clinical depression, nevertheless generates in the patient an alteration of self-esteem, sleep, and ability to concentrate.

Dysthymia is a mild form of psychotic depression, where the patient loses touch with reality to the point of developing delusions. If left untreated, dysthymia can worsen and develop into major depression. Finally, dysthymia differs from melancholy by its character anchored in time.

Types of dysthymia

There is only one type of dysthymia.

Nevertheless, there is a strong comorbidity – associations of two or more diseases in a person – of dysthymia with anxiety disorders.

Causes of Dysthymia

The causes of dysthymia are multiple:

  • A pre-existing personality disorder;
  • The presence of unconscious conflicts;
  • Dysfunction of certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin;
  • Genetic vulnerability;
  • Professional exhaustion (burn-out);
  • Neurotic symptoms – obsessions, phobias;
  • Etc.

Diagnosis of dysthymia

The diagnosis of dysthymia is based on the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

  • Depressed mood constant – throughout the day – and permanent – ​​every day;
  • Low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy;
  • Pessimism, feeling of hopelessness;
  • Fatigue ;
  • Sleep disturbance;
  • Decreased ability to think and concentrate.

The diagnosis of dysthymia can only be made after two years of observation of the disorder – one year for children and adolescents – with the possibility of periods of normal mood not exceeding two months.

People affected by dysthymia

Dysthymia affects 6% of the population.

It affects both men and women, regardless of age and socio-economic level.

Factors favoring dysthymia

There are many risk factors for dysthymia:

  • Financial and social difficulties;
  • Loss of a loved one or property;
  • Stressful life events;
  • High daily stress;

Symptoms of dysthymia

Chronically depressed mood

Dysthymia materializes through psychic symptoms including chronically depressed mood, feelings of guilt, rumination of the past, decreased concentration, activity, low self-esteem, and pessimism accompanied by a feeling of despair.

Social isolation

Dysthymia causes behavioral symptoms such as excessive irritability – even anger – and can lead to social isolation.

Physical disorders

Dysthymia can cause headaches, difficulty falling asleep, dyspepsia – a feeling of pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen – and fatigue.

Treatments for dysthymia

Faced with dysthymia, several therapeutic solutions are possible:

  • Psychotherapy, to work on depressed moods, doubts, and loss of self-esteem;
  • Taking anxiolytics, over a short period of time to manage relative anxiety;
  • Taking long-term antidepressants.

If they do not cure dysthymia, some essential oils can also relieve certain symptoms:

  • Basil essential oil will relieve dyspepsia;
  • Ledon essential oil from Greenland will alleviate sleep disorders.

Prevent dysthymia

Several actions help prevent dysthymia:

  • Continue treatment with antidepressants, even when symptoms improve and the dose is reduced;
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs;
  • Have a healthy lifestyle – balanced diet, no sleep debt;
  • Relax, without advocating idleness all day;
  • Practice regular moderate physical exercise;
  • Exposing yourself to natural light, going outside;
  • Be indulgent with yourself: in a depressed state, a person accomplishes less and that’s normal. It is therefore important not to inflict too important life goals on yourself;
  • Join help and support groups, to be less alone, confide in, and be inspired by other people.

Image Credit: Photo by Engin Akyurt from pexels.com

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