The Shades of Depression (Dysthymia)

The Shades of Depression (Dysthymia)

This post was published by the Harvard Medical School Newsletter and discusses dysthymia- a type of low grade, simmering depression that reduces the quality of our lives. It also has a negative impact on our relationships with our romantic partners, parents and children. The full article is reprinted below:
“Mood, like color, has a range of hues, from the bright shades of happiness to the dark ones of depression. A mood problem that’s down in the dark range, but doesn’t quite reach the level of depression, is dysthymia (dis-THIGH-me-ah). It refers to a long-term drone of low-grade depression that lasts for at least two years in adults or one year in children and teens. While not necessarily as crippling as major depression, its persistent hold can keep you from feeling good and interfere with your work, school, family, and social life. Think of dysthymia as a dim gray compared to depression’s blackness.
You might have dysthymia if you feel depressed during most of the day. You carry out your daily responsibilities, but without much zest for life. The depressed mood lingers for more than two months at a time, and is accompanied by at least two of these symptoms:

overeating or loss of appetite
insomnia or sleeping too much
tiredness or lack of energy
low self-esteem
trouble concentrating or making decisions
feelings of hopelessness

This low-grade depression lasts an average of five years. That’s another way it differs from major depression, in which relatively short episodes can be separated by considerable spans of time. It’s possible for an episode of major depression to occur on top of dysthymia; this is known as double depression.
Dysthymia often begins early in life, during childhood, the teen years, or early adulthood. Being drawn into this low-level depression tends to make major depression more likely. In fact, up to 75% of people who are diagnosed with dysthymia will have an episode of major depression within five years.
This low-grade depression doesn’t usually fade away all by itself. Treatment, though, helps ease dysthymia and other depressive disorders in about four out of five people.

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