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Chronic Depression (Dysthymia): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment.

Chronic Depression (Dysthymia): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment.

What do you answer when someone asks you “How are you?”. Fine?.

But you can’t blame yourself for saying it as sometimes even you don’t realize that your sadness turns into a mental health disorder. Depression is a mood disorder. When you feel constantly sad, hopeless, low, failure, loss, etc. A person suffering from depression may not feel okay or happy for a long time or even if they do, that feeling stays temporarily. It is very important to know the difference between being sad for a while and depression. Being sad due to something specific and for a short period of time does not mean that you are suffering from depression. Depression is termed a common mental health disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, an estimated 8.1 per cent of American adults ages 20 and above had depression in any given 2-week period from 2013 to 2016.

Treating chronic depression properly and with all medical help is very important. It is something that can be severe if not treated on time. It is quite a difficult phase to bring back your peaceful phase again once depression goes severe. Hence, it’s time to stop ignoring mental health and consider depression as a taboo.

Like any disease, depression has its types, symptoms, treatment. Today let us know something about a particular type of depression.

What is Chronic Depression (Dysthymia) ?

Chronic depression is also known as Dysthymia. It is mild and less severe than major depression. Another name used for Chronic Depression is Persistent depressive disorder (PDD). Symptoms of PDD must last for at least 2 years to be diagnosed. PDD affects your life more than major depression as it lasts for a longer time. People with this type of depression usually lose interest in normal daily activities, feel hopeless, lack productivity, have low self-esteem. People with chronic depression may also have periods of major depression. This condition is called double depression.

In Dysthymia, the symptoms are less severe but long-lasting for sure. They can last for years that affect school, work-life or personal relationships. Ignoring Dysthymia can surely result in increasing its severity.

Also check out: Can Depression be Genetic?

Symptoms of Chronic Depression.

Symptoms of Dysthymia are chronic but occur mostly every day for at least two years. Some of the symptoms are-

  • persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • sleep problems
  • low energy
  • a change in appetite
  • difficulty concentrating
  • indecisiveness
  • a lack of interest in daily activities
  • decreased productivity
  • poor self-esteem
  • a negative attitude
  • avoidance of social activities

Causes of Chronic Depression

The cause of Dysthymia is not specified. Any incident or issue in life can trigger it. Even sometimes a person may experience depression without any tragedic incident. But still according to research, here are some factors that can affect someone’s mental health and result in Persistent depressive disorder (PDD). They are-

  • a chemical imbalance in the brain
  • a family history of the condition
  • a history of other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or bipolar disorder
  • stressful or traumatic life events, such as the loss of a loved one or financial problems
  • chronic physical illness, such as heart disease or diabetes
  • physical brain trauma, such as a concussion

Also check out: 8 signs on your skin due to severe anxiety.

Ways to diagnose Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

Firstly, the doctor will perform some physical checkups on the patient. He/she may also recommend some blood tests to ensure that there is no physical issue or reason for such symptoms. And if none of such physical reasons comes up then the doctor can consider mental health problems as a cause.

The doctor may ask a few questions from patients to access their mental and emotional state. Patients need to be honest with their doctors. Do not hesitate in sharing any feelings and reasons that can cause such a condition. Hence, it is advised to be 100 per cent transparent to your doctor.

Many doctors use the symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose PDD. This manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association. The PDD symptoms listed in the DSM-5 include:

  • a depressed mood almost every day for most of the day
  • having a poor appetite or overeating
  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • low energy or fatigue
  • low self-esteem
  • poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
  • feelings of hopelessness

To diagnose PDD in adults, they must experience a depressed mood most of the days, nearly every day, for two or more years.

To diagnose PDD in children, they must experience a depressed mood or irritability most of the day, nearly every day, for at least one year.

And once doctors suspect a patient has a mental illness, they shall refer the patient to a mental health professional for better understanding and treatment.

Also check out: 8 Food items to fight depression

Treatment for Dysthymia

Treatment for Dysthymia can be done by taking medicines and therapy. Medicines along with therapy are a more effective way to treat Dysthymia than relying on therapy alone. Most of the time a combination of both medicines and therapy is considered as the best way to treat Dysthymia.


There are many anti-depressants available for a patient with PDD

  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft)
  • tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), such as amitriptyline (Elavil) and amoxapine (Asendin)
  • serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) and duloxetine (Cymbalta)

But in the case of mental health disorders, which medicine might suit the patient is subjective. You may have to try different medications, and see what medication suits you the best and helps you with improving your mental health. Always consult your doctor about any positive or negative effects of any medication. A dose of bad medication can worsen the situation and degrade your mental health. Hence, medicines are a great way to treat Dysthymia but need to suit your body first.


Therapy is considered one of the most important parts to treat mental health issues. As mental health issues involve a thought process, a patient needs to let out all the fears, feelings, etc so that someone can show their thoughts in the right direction. You don’t need to get a solution always but it at least gives you a sense of relief after expressing it.

During Therapies, you should –

  • express your thoughts and feelings in a healthy way
  • cope with your emotions
  • adjust to a life challenge or crisis
  • identify thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that trigger or aggravate symptoms
  • replace negative beliefs with positive ones
  • regain a sense of satisfaction and control in your life
  • set realistic goals for yourself

Therapy can be done individually or in a group. Support groups are ideal for those who wish to share their feelings with others who are experiencing similar problems.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle affects your mental health. It may or may not be a reason for Dysthymia but it surely has an impact on your condition if you are already suffering from a mental health disorder. Hence here are some things that you can change in your daily life.

  • exercising at least three times per week
  • eating a diet that largely consists of natural foods, such as fruits and vegetables
  • avoiding drugs and alcohol
  • seeing an acupuncturist
  • taking certain supplements, including St. John’s wort and fish oil
  • practicing yoga, tai chi, or meditation
  • writing in a journal

Results might be slow by this but you can surely achieve them by being patient and consistent. Mental health should never be taboo. Make sure you share your suffering with anyone you feel close to. And also make sure you take care of the mental health of your loved ones. Listening can bring a change as much as speaking up can. Stay happy. Stay healthy.

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