Home » What is Low-Grade Depression or Dysthymia?

Dysthymia, or persistent depressive disorder, is a mental health condition that is often undetected and untreated. Dysthymia is a continuous long-term (chronic) or low-grade type of depression. Because of the nature of this mental health condition, people may not even realize that they have it.

Sometimes called high-functioning depression, it is estimated the approximately 1.5% of the U.S. adult population are affected by dysthymia. Roughly 50 percent of the cases are considered severe with 31 years old being the average age of onset.

A condition like dysthymia is difficult to identify due to the fact the people with this type of depression may not realize that they are depressed. The “low-grade” nature of this illness makes many people feel like this is normal everyday behavior. People think this is normal, when in reality their feelings and emotions may not be normal. Instead, they pretend that everything is okay or fine.

What are the Causes and Symptoms of Dysthymia?

Precisely what causes this type of depression to develop is still a mystery. Most likely, much like major depressive disorder, there are likely many contributing factors. Some of the most likely factors include:

  • People’s genetic predisposition:  individuals are at an elevated risk for depression if they have relatives who have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder.
  • Environmental Influences:  traumatic events, financial issues and overall high levels of everyday stress.
  • Personality traits:  People with low self-esteem, pessimistic attitude and self-critical view of themselves.

People with persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), may lose interest in everyday activities and feel hopeless and unproductive. These feelings of inadequacy can last for many years and could significantly interfere with a person’s relationships, school and work activities. Persistent depressive disorder is not as severe as major depression, people’s depressed moods can range from mild, moderate or even severe.

This type of depression can wax and wane over the years with the intensity changing over time. Amazingly, major depression episodes can even occur before or during persistent depressive disorder. An occurrence that is sometimes called double depression.

Dysthymia can occur in short episodes as well as be separated by considerable spans of time. A fact to keep in mind when attempting to identify symptoms. There is a chance that dysthymia could exist if people are in a depressed mood on most days, with these feelings lingering for more than two years without at least two months of interruption. Often, dysthymia is accompanied by some of the following symptoms:

  • Overeating or loss of appetite with changes in weight.
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much.
  • Fatigue, trouble concentrating and difficulty making decisions.
  • Low self-esteem accompanied by feelings of hopelessness.
  • Loss of enjoyment in doing favorite activities.

Sometimes older adults, especially men, may experience issues the can trigger dysthymia, such as medical problems, social isolation, or new medications. Sometimes even a severe cold or injury can create an episode of depression. Whether young or old, if conditions like dysthymia are left untreated, it can have a negative impact on a person’s life.

For example, people may not form lasting friendships, romantic relationships or perform well at work. Low-grade, persistent depression is also linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Conditions like dysthymia can even make pre-existing conditions worse, like diabetes and high blood pressure. Even a person’s chances of developing a major depressive disorder and increased. Researchers have found that roughly 75 percent of people who are diagnosed with dysthymia will also have an episode of major depression.

Professional Psychiatric Help:

Individuals should seek help from trained and experienced mental health professionals. Just going it alone and faking it until they feel better, is not the best option. In fact, people suffering from dysthymia may attempt to self-medicate with drugs or other substances. They may think that they feel better, but this is a dangerous approach. They may make things worse by creating a cycle of addiction. This occurs due to the fact that overtime, self-medicating behavior can easily spiral into drug or substance abuse type behavior.

Because of the chronic nature of persistent depressive disorder, coping with depression symptoms is sometimes challenging. However, a combination of talk therapy (psychotherapy) and medication is usually effective in treating this condition.

Proper medication management is a critical aspect of many mental health treatment programs. These programs include medical monitoring, reconciling medications as well as ensuring that patients achieve beneficial outcomes from their treatments. Patients need to understand any possible side effects and have a mental health professional monitor the program’s safety and efficacy.

For More Information:

For more information about dysthymia or other behavioral health conditions, contact the staff at Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center. Their psychiatry practice is focused on providing experienced and professional treatment options.

Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center understand that they are here to serve the needs and concerns of their patients. By forming a trusting partnership with their patients, Emerald Psychiatry generates a comprehensive treatment plan that is customized to an individual’s needs. Their direct phone number is (614) 580-6917.

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Contributor: ABCS RCM