How is Dysthymic Disorder Connected to Depression?

There may come a time when an individual will feel deeply saddened. Life changes, a traumatic experience, or even genetic factors may trigger a shift in one’s mood. This can happen either during an individual’s childhood or at any point in one’s adulthood. Sometimes a person will not know why they feel emotionally distressed. Having feelings of confusion can make finding professional help that much more difficult. However, it is crucial to bring alarming symptoms to the attention of medical professionals. This is especially true if the symptoms have been prolonged. Dysthymic disorder (DD) may be less symptomatically conspicuous than its cousin major depression, but can still cause problems in one’s life if left untreated.

What Is Dysthymic Disorder?

According to the journal Psychiatry, DD is also known as dysthymia. The condition can be characterized as a longstanding mood disorder. It may cause a major fluctuation in an individual’s mood. Although the condition can be a challenge for professionals to detect, DD is quite commonly found in primary care, mental health settings, and communities.

The condition can affect one’s ability to eat and sleep and impact an individual’s self-esteem. A person with this condition cannot simply wake up the next day feeling better. Instead, it is a prolonged form of low-grade depression. The disorder can affect both men and women, but it is clinically known to affect women twice as often as males. Individuals can have other mental health conditions that co-occur with this disorder as well.

How Is Dysthymic Disorder Linked With Depression?

According to the aforementioned study, an individual who has been diagnosed with this condition may feel depressed for a majority of the day or a few days at a time. At times, a person may experience a normal mood for periods that do not exceed two months. Approximately two years following the onset of the disorder, there may be no episodes of major depression.

As claimed by the DSM-5, in comparison with early and late onset, DD may be characterized by increased relapse rates, a greater likelihood of developing co-occurring mental illnesses, and increased psychiatric hospitalizations.

An individual experiencing symptoms of depression should be screened for DD. This consists of discussing diagnostic symptoms and the severity of each episode.

Symptoms of Dysthymic Disorder

As stated in the publication Persistent Depressive Disorder by Raj K. Patel and Gregory M. Rose, children or adolescents diagnosed with DD may present signs of irritability instead of depression for about one year. Although the cause is unknown, adults may experience depressive symptoms that may help them recognize the signs of their condition.

Symptoms of DD may include:

  • Change in appetite: This can include binge eating or lack of appetite.
  • Trouble sleeping: Either insomnia or excessive sleepiness is common.
  • Fatigue: This includes low energy or demotivation that is ongoing.
  • Cognitive impairment: A person may lack concentration and have trouble making decisions.
  • Mood shift: This includes feelings of sadness or hopelessness.

Dysthymia and chronic major depression were recently consolidated into persistent depressive disorder. Therefore, an individual may meet the criteria for both conditions at the same time. To meet the threshold for diagnosis, the symptoms listed above must cause a high level of impairment or distress regarding one’s ability to function.

The Importance of Self-Care

Just like any untreated mental health disorder, not seeking treatment for dysthymia can negatively burden healthcare centers by impacting healthcare costs and significantly increasing symptom burden and mortality rates. Practicing self-help strategies can greatly help individuals facing challenges with their condition.

Self-care may consist of:

  • Exercising
  • Socializing with family and friends
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Trying mood-supporting herbs and supplements
  • Engaging with holistic therapy
  • Using aromatherapy
  • Attending support groups

Choosing to put effort forth in creating a self-care routine can greatly help one manage their symptoms. By doing this, an individual can learn to live well and positively improve their mental and physical health. Taking part in new activities can also prevent symptoms of depression. Support groups can make a person feel less lonely and provide new resources that may help improve their condition. Working with a team can also help an individual stay dedicated to treatment to achieve goals and focus on a better future.

Effective Treatment Options

Taking time to meet with a family practitioner can help guide an individual in finding mental health care specialists. Attempting to self-diagnose any condition is strongly discouraged. Scheduling with a psychiatrist to get a proper diagnosis and speaking with a therapist can open doors for pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, or a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) plan. Requesting an individualized treatment plan may also offer an individual a more person-centered approach. At 12 South Recovery, we provide clients with various treatment options to best suit their needs for professional support. Our facility can also offer a holistic treatment plan for more of a natural approach.

Facing challenges alone with a mental illness can be difficult. Although there is no known cause for dysthymic disorder or depression, professional treatment options are available. As a licensed and Joint Commission-accredited mental health treatment center, 12 South Recovery is a leader in Orange County mental health treatment. Our team is client-focused to meet each individual’s mental health needs. By working with our licensed, expert mental health therapists at 12 South Recovery, our patients are able to feel heard, understood, and supported. We help people confront, manage and even change self-limiting behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs. If you or a loved one feel you are in need of professional support, call 12 South Recovery at (888) 830-8374 for more information. 

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