Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

If you have dysthymia, you would find it very hard to stay happy even when the environment is upbeat.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent Depressive Disorder usually lasts for more than 2 years. According to research, patients who have persistent depressive disorder would face two conditions; low-grade persistent depression or dysthymia and chronic major depression.

If you have dysthymia, you would find it very hard to stay happy even when the environment is upbeat. You are also most likely to experience symptoms like major depression. Since dysthymia lasts for 2 years or even longer, the condition could affect your personal life. It may interfere with your relationships with other people as well as your daily normal activities.

Even though easing the symptoms of dysthymia could be extra challenging, there are still various treatments and coping mechanisms that could be considered.

Symptoms

Symptoms of persistent depressive disorder may appear and go over time. But, the symptoms of dysthymia don’t usually go away for two months. The intensity of every symptom may also vary over time. Double depression may also take place if you would experience major depression while dealing with persistent depressive disorder.

Symptoms of Persistent Depressive Disorder include:

  1. Hopelessness
  2. Loss of interest
  3. Sadness or feeling of emptiness
  4. Tiredness or lack of energy
  5. Sleeping problems
  6. Poor appetite or intense cravings
  7. Irritability or extreme anger
  8. Low self-esteem
  9. Trouble concentrating or hard time ing decision-making
  10. Isolation from social happenings
  11. Feelings of guilt or worries about the past

When to see a doctor?

If you experience any of the symptoms provided above, you should talk to an expert right away. A neurologist or a psychiatrist may help you diagnose your symptoms. If you feel uncomfortable talking to an expert or a mental health professional, you may also open up to anyone you feel safe talking with – a friend, a family member, a loved one.

If there are also episodes of you attempting suicide or thoughts of self-harm, be sure to call 911 for an emergency.

Causes

Like major depression, the root cause of a persistent depressive disorder may be unknown. It is also possible that the said condition may be a result of various causes all at once.

Various factors may include:

  1. Brain chemistry – Neurotransmitters present in the brain plays a role in contributing to depression. This is because changes in neurotransmitters and how they are associated with neurocircuits may affect the mood stability of a person.
  2. Life events – Traumatic experiences could also be possible causes of depression.
  3. Biological Difference – Experts were able to find out that people with dysthymia experience physical changes in their brain. Even though the cause is unknown, such incidents could be the reason behind depression.
  4. Inheritance – People who have persistent depressive disorder may have acquired it also from a family member who had the same condition.

Risk Factors and Complications

Since the persistent depressive disorder is continuous, some people who have the condition already experienced it even at an early age. Often times, there are also inevitable factors that could trigger depression and increase the risk of the symptoms. Some are the following:

  • Having a first-degree relative who has the same condition
  • Traumatic or stressful events such as the passing of a loved one, a breakup, or whatnot.
  • Negative personality traits such as insecurity, low self-esteem, etc.
  • History of other mental health disorders

Complications

  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Chronic pain
  • General medical illnesses
  • Personality disorders or other mental health disorders
  • Relationship or family problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Decreased productivity in school and work

Diagnosis

To diagnose a persistent depressive disorder, the following steps will be needed:

  1. Psychological evaluation – This includes an interview about your thoughts, behavior, and feelings. Your doctor may also include a questionnaire to help him/her further assess your symptoms.
  2. Lab Tests – A series of lab tests may also be recommended by your doctor. This will help him rule out possible medical conditions that are causing depression.
  3. Physical Examination – There are cases where depression is due to a physical health problem. This is why some doctors would also perform a physical examination on the patient to check possible physical health concerns.

The symptoms of persistent depressive disorder vary from one person to another. For some, they were able to notice the symptoms earlier than the age of 21. But, some people also have late onset of persistent depressive disorder. This is because their symptoms were able to appear when they were at the age of 21 or even older.

Prevention

  • Mediation – Make ways to increase your self-esteem. You may also try out steps on how to decrease and avoid stress.
  • Talk to someone – Most mental health experts would always suggest that if you do not feel like opening up, that’s actually the time that you need it most.
  • Get help – Knowing and understanding the condition could also be a great way to help prevent severe symptoms of depression.
  • Consider long-term medication – Relapses in depression is still possible. To prevent that, you may consider long-term therapy or medication.

Treatment

Most doctors would usually suggest an effective combination in treating depression – medications and psychotherapy (talk therapy).

Yet, the treatments your doctor will provide you will depend on the following factors:

  1. Your medication tolerance
  2. Other possible emotional problems
  3. The severity of your symptoms
  4. Past mental health treatments
  5. Your preferences

The common medications prescribed by doctors for depression include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs
  • Tricyclic antidepressants or TCAs
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or SNRIs

Make sure that before taking medications, you discuss with your doctors some possible side effects that may occur.

Psychotherapy or Talk Therapy

Also known as psychological counseling, this type of therapy is all about discussing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior with an expert.

There are various kinds of psychotherapy but it will depend on your doctor which kind of treatment he/she will recommend you. The type of talk therapy given will depend on the length of time needed, as well as your goals and other issues.

Aside from talking to your doctor, he/she may also teach you breathing exercises that you can use whenever anxiety attacks or panic attacks arise.

Coping and Support

Anyone with any kind of mental health disorder needs a strong support system. Medications and therapies wouldn’t be that effective if the environment is also not healthy for you. Your own motivation to recovery as well as your goals and mindset play a role in helping you prevent episodes of depression. This is why it is important to be knowledgeable about the condition.

Apart from help and support from medications, treatments, and other people, you also need to help yourself. Because at the end of the day, it is only you who can save yourself from your own mind.

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