We always here about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], but we don’t hear much about Dysthymic Disorder. In fact, I’d never heard of it until now; however, it exhibits a lot of the same symptoms as PTSD.
Dysthymic Disorder, more commonly know as MDD [Major Depressive Disorder], is a mood disorder characterized by a chronic and an insidious onset. Most people affected by MDD describe lifelong depression.
The condition usually has duration of a minimum of 2 years in adults; less for children and adolescents. The primary manifestation of the disorder is a “depressed or irritable mood” lasting most of the day – occurring more often than not. There are several other symptoms of MDD that include the following:
- Poor appetite or the just the opposite — overeating
- Excessive sleeping
- Low energy
- Low or poor self-esteem
- Inability to concentrate
- Difficulty making decisions
- Experiencing feelings of hopelessness
Although previously considered less severe than “major depression”, the consequences can be grave since they generally include sever functional impairment, increased morbidity from physical disease resulting from MDD, and increased risk of suicide. The scary thing is that oftentimes family members don’t even recognize that the person is depressed. Although the depression is considered mild, it may make it difficult for an individual to function – at home, work, school, or in other social environments.
The disorder is a fairly common type of depression with approximately 4% of the population suffering from dysthymia. An interesting point with the disorder is that although no one has been able to understand why…the disorder is more common in women than in the male population.
The causes of the disorder are unknown. There are theories that state it may be related to changes in the brain involving serotonin (a hormone that aids the brain in handling emotions and making judgements). There are, however, other medical problems, as well as the day-to-stressors that many of us encounter that may play an important role in the manifestation of the disorder.
First and foremost, if you think you may be suffering from dysthymia, it is crucial that you contact your doctor to discuss your concerns. Expect your doctor to ask a lot of questions pertaining to your sleep habits, medications you are taking, issues with concentration, fatigue, and more.
Don’t despair – treatment is available with antidepressant medication. These types of medications are fairly mild whereby they don’t make the individual feel “high” and, more importantly, the are non-habit forming. The one thing to keep in mind is that drug therapy is not an immediate fix. In fact, it may take months before your doctor can determine it effectiveness. As with any prescription, it is always important to continue taking the medication as ordered by your doctor understanding that it could be several years before you can stop taking it. Even if you feel better within a short period of time, by discontinuing the drug therapy the depression could quickly return. In addition, side effects from stopping the antidepressant suddenly can be worse than the original symptoms of the disorder. In addition, seeing a therapist in conjunction with drug therapy has been found to have the most effectiveness in treating the disorder.
In conclusion, it is important to find ways to help yourself such as engaging in “feel-good” activities; eating regular/healthy meals; avoiding the use of drugs and/or school; finding a hobby that holds your interest; and, exercising regularly. Sufferers of MDD can beat the odds!