According to Harvard Health Publications, Dysthymic Disorder is a chronic mood disorder with depressive symptoms that occur for up to two years or more and affects 3 to 6 percent of the population, yet few people have ever heard of it or are familiar with its symptoms. But an obvious depression may or may not be the only or first symptom to present itself. It wasn’t for me anyway. Anger was my most obvious symptom. Chronic anger that persisted for days or weeks and only lessened sporadically. This brain disorder can also cause irritability, frustration, extreme anxiety, poor concentration, low self-esteem, inappropriate feelings of guilt, and an inability to make decisions. I, unknowingly, lived with this form of depression for more than 40 years believing I just having “ups” and “downs,” good days and bad days, just like everyone else.
A closely-associated, but slightly more severe depression is Cyclothymic Disorder, which affects between 0.4 and 1 percent of the population and involves mood swings ranging from mild depression to an elevated mood know as hypomania. Many symptoms of both disorders are very similar. However, dysthymia is a unipolar depression, whereas cyclothymia involves short cycles of depression and hypomania of shorter duration than major depressive and bipolar disorders. Cyclothymia is similar to bipolar (manic depression); however, the highs and lows do not reach the severity or extremity as bipolar disorder. Fifteen to 50 percent of cases are eventually classified as bipolar I and/or II. Because the two are so closely related and share similar symptoms, diagnosis may be difficult especially if the patient has others disorders in conjunction with the depression.
The patterns of both mood disorders are irregular and unpredictable and often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as another disorder displaying similar symptoms. Both disorders are genetic so, odds are, a person suffering from either disorder is likely to have other relatives with the same disorder. If a person is raised with others in the family with either disorder, this factor will make it more difficult for a person to realize they suffer from these disorders. Both disorders can destroy marriages and other relationships as well as lead to job loss, drug abuse, alcoholism and even thoughts of suicide.
Currently, dysthymia can be successfully treated with antidepressants prescribed by a psychiatrist.
Women are more likely than men to have either disorders and seek treatment. However, those who suffer from cyclothymia should take a mood stabilizer and avoid antidepressants unless a mood stabilizer is taken along with the antidepressant.
People suffering from untreated dysthymia have an increased risk of developing major depression, and those with cyclothymia are at an increased risk of developing bipolar disorder.
The causes of most forms of depression are usually attributed to a chemical imbalance in the brain. However, outside factors such as upbringing, sleep disorders, and stress may contribute to both disorders. Symptoms for both disorders often begin in early childhood and adolescence.
This article is an introduction to both forms of depression or mood disorder. However, it is not complete and all-inclusive many any means. If you suspect a loved one is showing signs of either form of depression, please seek help from a professional mental healthcare provider.