You feel that life is getting harder, you get tired easily, things once enjoyable are becoming a chore. You have difficulty concentrating, doing tasks that were once easy you find more difficult.
Dysthymia, first identified in 1980, is increasingly being diagnosed as depressive illness in Britain. In its mildest form there will be many sufferers who would never suspect they have some form of illness (see symptoms below). Or when diagnosed, 'they feel a fraud', in that they do not feel they have an illness that justifies such a diagnosis. In its more severe form, also called Double Depression most who visit a doctor will be diagnosed with depression. Although not a wrong diagnosis dysthymia has added complications.
Please note if you any of these sound familiar please do not self diagnose please see your GP (Doctor).
Symptoms of Dysthymia
In mild Dysthymia the sufferer may not know there is anything wrong. Symptoms are very vague and can only be established by comparison with non-sufferers. The sufferer will likely tire a little more easily than normal, not have quite as much energy, concentrate less than normal and find dealing with things and people harder. In other words, feel a little run down but not enough to see a doctor. What is worse in Dysthymia is that this feeling can go on for months or years, so much so that the sufferer just accepts this as normal.
Severe Dysthymia, also known as Double Depression, has the same symptoms as Depression except that it tends to last longer and can recur. Dysthymia according to Merck's manual is:-
In dysthymic disorder, depressive symptoms typically begin insidiously in childhood or adolescence and pursue an intermittent or low-grade course over many years or decades; major depressive episodes may complicate it (double depression). In pure dysthymia, depressive manifestations occur at a subthreshold level and overlap considerably with those of a depressive temperament: habitually gloomy, pessimistic, humorless, or incapable of fun; passive and lethargic; introverted; skeptical, hypercritical, or complaining; self-critical, self-reproaching, and self-derogatory; and preoccupied with inadequacy, failure, and negative events.
Officially the symptoms of Depression as defined in DSM-IV ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ) are:-
1. At least two years of symptoms, including more days than not of depressed mood.
2. While depressed at least two of the following:
A. Feelings of hopelessness.
B. Impairment in cognitive functioning. ( E.g., Hard time concentrating, Hard time in making decisions )
C. Loss of appetite or overeating.
D. Low levels of energy or fatigue.
E. Low self-esteem.
F. Problems with sleep. ( E.g.,Insomnia, Hypersomnia )
3. At no time in the two years of symptoms, has there been a symptom free period that lasted two or more months, of 1 and 2 above.
4.At no time in the two years of symptoms, has there been a Major Depressive, Manic or Mixed Episode.
The symptoms are not from another disorder or a substance.
6. Clinically significant distress from symptoms, or impairment in work, social, or other areas of important functioning.
NOTE: One year in children and adolescents NOT TWO.
How Does Dysthymia Start?
The start of Dysthymia may be as vague as the early symptoms, with the sufferer not realizing any change, It can often start in Childhood as the following experiences show:-
"Even in my childhood I felt depressed, and generally unhappy,"
"I have had Dysthymia since childhood and often experience Major Depression as well."
" (I) have had what I would term a fairly constant low mood since childhood,"
Not everyone who is diagnosed with Dysthymia though has had the illness since childhood, like any illness it can start anytime in ones life.
The causes are usually down to either Trauma or Illness. Taking illness first there can be a number of illnesses that can cause depression, perhaps the most common being Flu. However other illnesses also cause depression such as:- Measles, Chicken Pox, Meningitis, Encephalitis, (this is not a full list there can be others).
Trauma can be many and varied and can include:- (Birth and Childhood) Premature Birth, Breach Birth, separation from parents in early childhood, going into hospital, starting school, birth of sibling, being bullied, exams, leaving school (no doubt you can think of more), (Adult Hood), Starting Work, losing your job, breakup of a relationship, marriage, divorce money problems, death of spouse, retirement and many more.
What is Dysthymia Like?
At the start of this page we put this photo of a lady walking uphill. What has this to do with Dysthymia? It was one of the best illustrations we could think of -- life with Dysthymia. Walking uphill is harder than walking on the flat or going downhill. It takes more energy, and it takes longer however, unless a walker becomes so exhausted they have to turn back or is stopped by an illness, they usually reach their goal.
That is what life with Dysthymia is like, it is much harder than for a non sufferer, takes more energy, can be exhausting, at times can feel hard, but at the same time goals can be reached.
However Dysthymia does have a much darker side, usually called, 'Double Depression,' in this the sufferer becomes increasingly ill, not being able to face the world the sufferer become increasingly withdrawn, possibly getting to the point where they are reluctant to get out of bed, or worse still starts to see no point to their life to the point where they may contemplate suicide.
Lack or virtual loss of concentration can blight the sufferers day, as can fatigue, negative thinking, feeling isolated even in a crowd.
Untreated Dysthymia can last a lifetime. Notice that in the symptoms, two years in mentioned for adults and one year for children, in other words Dysthymia is not diagnosed until the sufferer has been suffering for some time. Although it can return, happily there are things that sufferers can do either to help themselves or through professional treatments to return to living a normal life.