Dysthymia: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Complications, Treatments

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

Dysthymia, also known as Neurotic depression, Dysthymic disorder or chronic depression is a mood affective disorder manifest t with similar symptoms of depression with cognitive and physical complications though with less* severity but lasting for a long duration of about 2 years. It is less* severe in kids and teens and without diagnosis, people may find it as a normal life experience. The name dysthymia was founded by Dr. Robert Spitzer as an alternative for ‘depressive personality’ in the 1970s.

Symptoms of Dysthymia

Dysthymia

Symptoms of Dysthymia in adults consist of sadness feelings usually accompanied by loss of interest in daily activities and lack of energy. With Disthymia, you experience difficulties concentrating at work or you are unable to make decisions. If you experience hopelessness, low self-esteem and increased irritability, you could be suffering from neurotic depression. Other symptoms of Dysthymic disorder include increased or decreased* appetite, sleeping problems, isolation and feelings of guilt about your past. A combination of these conditions will result to a decreased* productivity at work.
Children suffering from Dysthymia exhibit irritability, poor performance in school, negative attitude, low self-esteem or poor socializing skills. If you experience several of these symptoms, it is advisable to seek early medical attention to prevent severity.

Causes of Dysthymia

There is no known exact cause of Dysthymia although combinations of several factors have been proved to play a major role in its advance. They include:

  • Heredity: Genes in a family with a history of depression or Dysthymia play a role of passing traits from parents to their children. You are at a higher risk of suffering from Dysthymia if a close relative suffered
  • Chemical Changes in the brain especially in the neurotransmitters which relay information in the brain. These could be as a result of hormonal imbalances following a malfunction of the thyroid glands
  • Persistent Stress: Overwhelming challenges in life can lead to depressive related illnesses including Dysthymia
  • Other medical illnesses including Diabetes
  • Social isolation especially from divorce or loss of loved ones
  • Pessimistic character
  • Other mental related disorders

Differences by Gender

Dysthymia in men and women manifest differently with the latter being easily diagnosed. It is quite difficult to tell a man is depressed unless he is diagnosed by an expert.

Dysthymia in Women

Most cases of Dysthymia are diagnosed in women than men. This is attributed to hormonal changes during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, afterbirth and menopause. The prevalence of Dysthymia in women is also related to their great connections with their emotions. Home tasks and discrimination in the society like less* earnings and caring for the aged increases* their stresses levels and can precipitate Dysthymia. Dysthymia has been found to be very common in single mums. However, very few cases of Dysthymia are reported in women in well established and stable marriages.

Dysthymia in Men

Although not common a common case in men, men are also at risk of developing Dysthymia. The most common symptoms of Disthymic disorders in men include increased irritability, anger and decreased* performance at work. Due to their masculine character, men tend to conceal symptoms of Dysthymia for fear of being considered incompetent. Majority associate Dysthymia to feminine character build up and will easily engage in risky behaviors and substance abuse to overcome that fact. Most men with Dysthymia do not seek any professional assistance.

Dysthymia by Age Group

It is easier to recognize Dysthymia in children and teens than in adults. Prior to adolescence, both boys and girls experience similar depressive symptoms. However, the rate of Dysthymia occurrence in girls increases* after adolescence. Unlike in adults where symptoms for the diagnosis of Dysthymia have to be present for 2 years, they last for about a year in children and teens. Dysthymic disorders are more common in the elderly especially the ones living in isolation following the loss of a spouse. The onset of other medical illnesses increases* the risks of Dysthymia in the elderly. Treatment approaches used in the cure* of Dysthymic disorders are all the same regardless of age group.

Risk Factors

A number of factors seen to increase* the risks of developing Dysthymia include the following:

  • Family member exhibiting symptoms of Dysthymia or major depression
  • Major stressful or traumatic life events such as accident, hurricanes, loss of spouse or a job loss
  • Low self-esteem or loss of confidence. People who rely entirely on others when making major decisions in life are prone to Dysthymia when the support* is withdrawn

Complications

Just like depression, Dysthymia complications can have tremendous life effects if untreated including suicide. Life ceases to be enjoyable any longer and its quality is declined. Your performance at work deteriorates and you are at a risk of facing the sack due to underperformance. In kids, teens and young adults in educational institutions, Dysthymia result to sudden poor performances. At home, you are at quarrels with your spouse preferring to spend much time on your own. In an attempt to escape the feelings of frustrations, you might end up abusing substances such as alcohol, cigars or recreational drugs. Increased appetite due to Dysthymia can lead to obesity. Poor diet or loss of appetite on the other hand will make you skinny. With Dysthymia, you may live with feelings of apprehension or uncertainty about your future accompanied by frequent thoughts of suicide.

Diagnosis

If your physician feels you could be suffering from Dysthymia, he may proceed to carry out some tests and exams which include:

  • Physical examination through asking detailed questions about your health to find out the possible causes of Dysthymia. To rule out the possibility of any other physical complications manifesting as Dysthymia, your doctor will do a thorough examination of your body
  • Your doctor will perform a laboratory tests on your blood sample. Your physician may check levels of folate and vitamin D. To know the health status of your hormones processing organ, your physician may conduct a screening of your thyroid glands
  • Your physician will then do psychological assessments which include discussions about your thoughts and emotions. In this assessment, you could be asked reasons as to why you behave in an irresponsible manner following a challenge. You may be requested to feel in a questionnaire to assist your doctor in making conclusions.
  • Prevention

    Due to its onset on infants, there are no certain ways of preventing Dysthymia. Earlier identification of Dysthymia in children can assist in early treatments. To put off occurrence of Dysthymic disorders, here are some tips you can utilize:

    • Learn stress management skills to develop tolerance techniques and increase* your confidence. Stress if approached in the right way can be resolved with a lot of ease*
    • Engage in helpful relationships with family members or trusted friends especially when faced with a challenge. Support* and encouragement will help you overcome a stressing experience
    • On noticing symptoms of Dysthymia, you should immediately seek medical assistance to avoid their proliferation
    • Doing exercises on regular basis will boost* your immunity and improve* your wellbeing. A workout will improve* your strength, increase* your confidence and enhance* your self-esteem
    • Basking in the sun will help in the synthesis of vitamin D, an important requirement in the prevention of Dysthymia
    • To prevent a recurrence of Dysthymic disorders, you should consider scheduling with your physician for checkups

    Treatments

    Once diagnosed with Dysthymia or after a few therapy sessions, your physician may decide to use a combination of both antidepressants and psychotherapies. A number of factors that determines the approach your doctor will recommend include the severity of your Dysthymia, your willpower and determination in handling emotional and situational issues, your preferences and any previous treatment attempts options. The most common types of antidepressants used in the treatment of Dysthymia include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).

    Alternative Medicine

    Although the use of alternative medicine in the treatment of Dysthymia could be beneficial, you should be much aware of the possible side-effects associated with them. Herbal supplementary remedies can be used in the cure* of Dysthymic disorders. It is important to consult with your physician first since some may interfere with prescription medicines and result to dangerous interactions. Other alternative treatments for Dysthymia include acupuncture, yoga, guided imagery, massage therapy, music or art therapy and meditation. However, the sole use of these alternative therapies in the cure* of Dysthymia may not be effective but combination with prescription treatments can give better* results.

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    Author

    Expert Author : Joan Raynor (Consumer Health Digest)

    Joan Raynor is a health researcher and expert writer specializing in mental health issues where she provides hope and support to persons with treatment-resistant depression and other chronic mood disorders.