Chronic depression (Dysthymia)

Dysthymia, or as it is also called chronic depression, is a mild form of depression. In dysthymia, symptoms of depression can manifest for two or more years. People with dysthymia usually exist normally in society, but at the same time they seem constantly unhappy.

What causes dysthymia?

Until now, experts are not sure that provokes dysthymia. This form of chronic depression is associated with chemical changes in the brain provoked by serotonin. Serotonin is an inhibitor or neurotransmitter that helps the brain cope with emotions. Stressful life situations, such as chronic illness, certain medications, problems in your personal life or at work, also increase your chances of dysthymia.

What are the signs and symptoms of dysthymia?

Symptoms of dysthymia are the same as in acute depression, but not so severe and include the following:

  • Permanent feeling of sadness and emptiness
  • Sleep problems (insomnia or sleepiness)
  • Early morning awakening
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness
  • Guilt
  • Loss of interest or loss of the opportunity to enjoy yourself
  • Energy reduction or fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, difficult to think and decide
  • Change in appetite (overeating or loss of appetite)
  • Marked mental or physical slowness
  • Persistent headaches, joint pain, or digestive problems difficult to treat
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

How to diagnose dysthymia?

A mental health professional usually makes a diagnosis based on the symptoms of the disease. In the case of dysthymia, these symptoms should last for a long time, and they manifest in a milder form than in acute depression.

When making a diagnosis, it is first necessary to make sure that the symptoms are not the result of alcohol or drug addiction or the result of the disease, for example, as a result of hypofunction of the thyroid gland. Also, the symptoms of the disease should cause a clinical manifestation of the disorder or a decline in interest in social, professional or other important areas of life.

If the feeling of depression and depressive mood does not go away for two weeks, then you need to seek help from your doctor or psychiatrist. The doctor will conduct a thorough examination, studying in detail the history of mental illness in your family.

Unfortunately, there are no special tests, such as blood tests, X-rays or other laboratory tests, which would make it possible to accurately diagnose dysthymia.

How is dysthymia treated?

Although dysthymia is a serious disease, it is treatable. As with other chronic diseases, its early diagnosis and timely effective treatment play an important role in treatment, which will help to reduce the temporary manifestation and reduce the risk of relapse.

When treating dysthymia, the doctor prescribes psychotherapy, medication, such as antidepressants, or a combination of both methods together. Often, dysthymia can be cured by a local doctor.

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, used in the treatment of dysthymia and other mood disorders, should help the patient learn to cope with daily feelings. It can also enhance the effect of medicines and teach the patient to a healthy lifestyle, and most importantly, it helps the patient and his family understand what a mood disorder is and how to deal with it. Psychotherapy has the following types: individual therapy, family therapy, group therapy or support groups, consisting of people with the same disease as the patient.

How do antidepressants help relieve dysthymia?

There are many different antidepressants used for dysthymia. Taking into account the mental and physical condition of the patient, the doctor will select the most appropriate antidepressant with the least side effects.

The effect of the antidepressant is manifested several weeks after the start of treatment. In the first attack of dysthymia, antidepressants must be taken for at least six months. Moreover, the rejection of antidepressants occurs over several weeks, so it is necessary to inform your doctor about the desire to refuse to take medication.

The following is a list of the most commonly used antidepressants:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Luvox, Paxil, Zoloft
  • Selective inhibitors of serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake: Effeksor, Cymbalta
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Elavil, Asendin, Anafranil, Norpramin, Adapin, Sinekvan, Tofranil
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors: Marplan, Nardil, Parnat, EMSAM
  • Trazodon – Desyrel
  • Other antidepressants: Mirtazapin, Bupropion

Some of the antidepressants have side effects. For example, anti-depressants such as SSRIs cause mild insomnia and reduce sexual desire. Therefore, when choosing an antidepressant, you must work closely with your doctor, which will help you choose the most effective medicine with the least side effects.

Are there other ways to treat dysthymia?

Your doctor will tell you about alternative treatments. For example, in case of seasonal depression, phototherapy is an effective method. If antidepressants do not give effect in the treatment of acute depression, an additional method is electroconvulsive therapy. If the diagnosis of chronic depression manifests manic behavior, then perhaps the doctor will prescribe mood stabilizers, such as lithium or anticonvulsants.

How else can you feel better?

The most important step to improve well-being with dysthymia is timely diagnosis and effective treatment. In addition, you should lead a healthy lifestyle, such as a well balanced diet, playing sports, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and maintaining close friendships with family members and friends. This behavior affects rapid recovery.

Can dysthymia worsen?

Very often, in the diagnosis of dysthymia, acute depression is also manifested – chronic depression turns into an attack of acute depression, and then returns to a state of dysthymia. This condition is called double depression. Therefore, timely and accurate diagnosis plays an important role in treating depression. Then the doctor, according to the diagnosis, prescribes an effective treatment that will help you quickly return to normal life.

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