symptoms of chronic depression

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Living with Dysthymia or Dysthymic Disorder can be difficult. It is difficult for the person who suffers from it and it is difficult for the people around you.

There is no other way to put it.

But is doesn’t have to be that way.

What is Dysthymic Disorder

Dysthymic disorder is a persistent, low level and somewhat chronic depression. It is usually mild but it can at times become a full blown depressive episode.

ReadThe Mindful Way Through Depression

Dysthymia affects 2 percent of the American population in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Like most types of depression, it strikes more women than men. And while dysthymia is usually less severe than major depression, the symptoms — low self-esteem, sadness, fatigue, and more — are very real.

What Causes Dysthymic Disorder?

The causes of Dysthymic disorder are not fully known but scientists believe that an imbalance of the brain chemical called serotonin may be involved. Personality factors, medical illnesses, and stressful life situations may also contribute to the development of this condition, which can begin in childhood or adulthood. You have to have symptoms for two years or longer to be diagnosed with dysthymic disorder.

•Biochemical. People with dysthymia may have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but they may eventually help pinpoint causes.

Read- Furiously Happy

•Genes. Dysthymia appears to be more common in people whose biological (blood) relatives also have the condition.

•Environment. As with depression, environment may contribute to dysthymia. Environmental causes are situations in your life that are difficult to cope with, such as the loss of a loved one, financial problems or a high level of stress.

What Are Some Symptoms?

  • Low self-esteem,
  • feelings of failure,
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Changes in sleep habits — oversleeping or not sleeping enough
  • Changes in appetite — overeating or poor appetite

Everyone’s symptoms will be different.

Dysthymic Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment

Talk with your doctor, who can evaluate your symptoms and medical history. A diagnosis of dysthymia involves a careful assessment of your depression symptoms. Your doctor will ask you questions about your mood and feelings, sleep habits, energy level, and ability to concentrate and remember things. He or she may also perform tests to determine if there is a medical reason, such as a thyroid problem or a medication you are taking, for your symptoms.

You may want to take this self test for Dysthymic Disorder.

Dysthymia treatment may include antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, or lifestyle modifications. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional who is experienced in treating dysthymia and other forms of depression. In addition to following your doctor’s advice on how to treat your condition you should participating in activities you enjoy, eating a healthful diet, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and exercising regularly to help lift your spirits.

ReadThe Depression Cure

Also check out these Dysthymia Resources

Talk to your doctor and be open with them about how you are feeling. They will help  get you pointed in the right direction.

If you would like to share your own “Living with Dysthymia” stories and coping tips, please comment.

Like what you have read? Please be sure to share it.

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60 thoughts on “Dealing With Dysthymia

  1. I’m sorry to hear that you’re having a particular hard time, today and in general. I watched something this morning that I found very inspirational. The video is at the tail end of the post.

    I find the times that I feel more down are the times that I feel the least connected to people. I understand that your depression makes it hard to want to reach out, but could you find a group or church that you could reach out to? Once you’re there, the smallest of baby steps in getting to know people can help.

    I believe as the woman in the video says that the purpose of life is connection with people and everything within your power to make that happen can help. Even if it’s reaching out to a neighbor or performing an act of service. I don’t want anything I say to minimalize the nature of what you are feeling and the problems associated with depression, but I’ve suffered in years past from anxiety issues and had to rely on my strong constitution at times to really push myself through those roadblocks.

    I hope the video helps to lift your spirits! I belong to an incredible church with an amazing support system. Let the Mormon missionaries come and teach you about it! It’s wonderful.

    1. Thanks so much Diane for your thoughts.

      It seems at times that I am in a Catch-22 situation. I find it very hard to interact with people. I feel inferior.
      But it is something that I will look into more openly.

      And thanks a lot for the video.

  2. just want to say, i’ve lived with this for over 20 years. and been on and off antidepressants. the main things that help me are just taking it one day at a time, finding joy in little things and my dogs!

  3. My dad taught me to live in daytight compartments years ago and that really does help. Look for opportunities to give service and that takes the focus off of you and gives you an opportunity to connect. Connection is key! Don’t give in to your thoughts of inferiority. It’s only the story that you’ve created. You are not inferior. And realize that many people than you think those same thoughts. Start in your own neighborhood and work place and put yourself forward, extend a hand of friendship!

    1. Yes. Very good advice. I did salt and sand my icy Canadian driveway today. It is a shared driveway. And I GAVE AWAY my website that I have been building for a couple of years. It did make me feel good to do those things.

      Thanks again Diane:)

  4. I’m bipolar so I know what depression feels like. I understand how hard it is to connect with people and what it feels like to struggle to just get out of bed. Be gentle with yourself. Make sure you are taking care of yourself. Some of the things I’ve found helpful (if hard to do) eat healthy, get enough sleep, try to get some exercise – I found a walk outside is good, make sure I’m taking my meds, shower and get dressed. For me feeling better starts with self care.

    It’s hard not to isolate. If you feel like chatting, please email me

  5. I’ve dealt with low-grade depression for years that occasionally flares up into a major depression. For the last year or so I’ve also been struggling with anxiety. I still functioned, went to work, the gym, social gatherings, but I was miserable. All the time. Since I was functioning I thought I was handling it, but it kept getting harder and harder. I resisted medication and therapy. I never liked medication, the cost, the stigma, the terrible drugged feeling. I’ve been to therapists before, but they didn’t help either.

    Finally, it all became too much to the point where I went to a therapist and eventually was prescribed cymbalta. It was like someone flipped a lightswitch on my life. It’s amazing. I should have tried this years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I still get irritated, have bad and good days, etc., but that’s just it, I have GOOD days. I feel like life is worth living again. I laugh. Things I could barely cope with, like rough days at work are manageable.

    My point is that you might not believe how much difference the right medication can make until you experience it for yourself, but really, what is there to lose?

    1. Sounds like we are on the same path. Right now I could not be happier and more content with my life. A job I enjoy that pays very well and that I can bike to, and I have accepted that being single is the absolute best life for me. I love it! Just keeping things simple but still challenging myself makes me very happy. And you are very correct with your idea about medication.

      Thanks so much for your comment!


  6. I was diagnosed with Dysthymia about 5 years ago. Mostly medication helps, but talk therapy is also necessary when I have a major depressive episode. I can see a lot of me in the way you describe yourself. I had always thought that I was inferior to others; actually, I figured I was just plain stupid. My therapist sent me for testing and it turned out that my IQ range was considerably higher than normal. She told me that my thinking process is different than most people’s and therefore it’s understandable that I tend to be frustrated with social interactions and ultimately isolate. You write very thoughtfully, clearly and sensitively, so I can’t help but wonder if you’re in the same boat.

    I’m glad to see that you’re in a better place now. And btw – you’re right, Dysthymic Disorder DOES suck!

    1. hae oesha i was also recently diagnosed with dysthymia and I was also told that my IQ is high than people my age and I should make an effort in interacting with people older than me

  7. I completely understand how you feel. I don’t have what you have but I have Fibromyalgia from Breast Cancer treatments a couple of years ago. It sucks. I get frustrated and depressed about not being up to exercising or just carrying on day to day things and have gained so much weight from chemo. So grateful to be alive and my wonderful family, but I miss my active lifestyle and having any kind of social life. I really want to be able to play more with my special needs Grandbaby and at least keep things up daily at home. Being able to work would be the icing on the cake. I wish you good days more often. Hang in there.

    1. I do think I have my condition under control. I do tend to isolate myself though. I am just an introvert by nature.
      It is easy to be down when there are setbacks that we have to overcome.

      Be strong for those who love you and for yourself.

  8. I hope, given that this post is so old, that this dysthymia has passed. But one thing I have often heard, and have also often and it really works, is to go and help someone. Go volunteer at a food bank. Go offer some time at the library for free. Ask an elementary school if they need a tutor an afternoon a week. The old adage is that the student says “I am discouraged. What should I do?” The teacher replies, “Go encourage someone.” Your site is great and I love what you are doing.

  9. Hey there. I am a 31 year old woman who has struggled with low grade depression for many years. In recent years it has often flared up in the form of bad anxiety, paranoia and intrusive thoughts. There have been some pretty black times in my life and although i have never considered suicide, I have doubted my sanity. I am also an artist and singer, who is constantly plagued by feelings of guilt and frustration because I cannot see any projects through or create anything..The list is endless. However, I have gone to several therapists and if anything, have learned a lot about my feelings and how I work.
    These feelings still haunt me (particularly guilt and low self worth) and I think its high time I fully accepted what I have. I have not yet tried medication (have seen my mother take many meds over the years) but wish to take the alternative route. However, this will take lifestyle changes and discipline. I am afraid that these feelings will haunt me forever, but must be willing to take myself on and start making changes. Its like you said – living simply and being gentle on yourself, enjoying nature and music. ^_^
    Posting up here is helping a little and I hope it helps someone out there too to realise they are not alone.


      1. Hi there, thanks so much for you reply. Right now I want to start looking at my life and see what changes I can make. I guess Im afraid of medication and resisting it still. My mother and her sisters/brothers have been medicated for years. I want to try alternative approaches instead, but will take some discipline, such as yoga, cognitive therapy and dietary changes. Have started recording my moods, so its a start.
        Thanks again..feel free to message me here anytime.


      2. You are worthy. You are an amazing person. You have incredible value and much to offer. Never forget this.

        Would love to hear how you are making out. Please stay in touch.


  10. I also suffer dysthymia. I find it very interesting that like me, you are an introvert. I find it even more interesting your interest in tiny houses and minimalist lifestyle, I also have a great interest in both. Hmmm. I have always treated my depression as an illness like diabetes and worked around it. I work at recognizing symptoms early and avoid being around people during those times to minimize damages. Medication is not helpful for me so going with the flow and minimizing damages is the only thing that has kept me alive. My depression is debilitating enough to prevent me from being able to work, which only adds to my depression cycles. The generalized overall lack of interest that I have known my whole life is evident in your writing. Having just raised 2 sons alone, also preferring to be singl, I am ready to just stay isolated. Tiny house in the boondocks, here I come! I would like to follow your posts, having people who understand to chat with helps. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  11. Wow. It’s nice to know how others with dysthymia feel! No one else that I know or am friends with seems to have the moods that I have and try so hard to contain. I work very hard to put on my “happy face” and be “normal”, but I don’t feel “normal” (whatever that means). I, too, look around (particularly at my husband) and wonder why he can be so happy all the time and so carefree. I ALWAYS feel serious and like I’m carrying a heavy burden. I feel like I’m suffering alone and I often wonder why I’m so messed up inside. I’ve been on Prozac for many yrs, which has saved my life, but it’s time to try some of the new, more contemporary meds. Scared of Cymbalta and it’s side effects. But, just reading that others (with this disorder) can relate, somehow “normalizes” me. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You are certainly not alone in this. While I am actually quite happy on most days I am not walking around with a smile on my face all the time either. I like the way you say you are carrying a burden.

      I am happiest when either sitting quietly, or listening to music.

      Keep your head up.

  12. Hello again…
    So I commented here some months ago about my depression. I had a ‘good’ few weeks where the symptoms abated but of late they are back. I have found myself having a ‘few drinks’ on the weekends so I dont have to sit with my thoughts. I feel that I have the knowledge and the tools to really make some changes, yet I am running away from it. I am currently on holiday, travelling alone through Thailand. Its what I like to do but I find having this condition can cloud your judgement (what am I really ‘enjoying’?) and I find it hard to just sit by myself, so I go party.
    The thing is, I tend to alternate between craving solitude and then craving distraction. I am a work of contradiction and extremes.
    If I can try to describe my feelings it would be a combination of feeling depressed, restless, frustrated and lost. I know these feelings will ease and life will continue…but I think my worst fear of all is remaining alone forever and in this vicious cycle of bad habits.
    I am relentlessly cruel to myself and although I can usually chat people easily, beneath the surface, I am guarded and insecure. I seek out the wrong men in my life – they are unavailable in some way or uninterested and I am terrified of letting the available ones get close to me.
    I am not sure if this is a sexual issue (no clear memory) but allowing someone close to me intimately is scary and doesnt happen often.
    Im sorry if this is a senseless rant but Im kind of sleep deprived and my brain is a bit frazzled.
    I dont like to let others know I am unhappy because this has gone on for so long and I still havent really done anything about it. Or at least I try and then fall off the wagon again.

    So I am seeking out some counselling whilst living in Bangkok. I think it is important to have some kind of support structure, because I do withdraw a lot (more so in recent years, which Ive noticed) and try to battle it alone.

    thanks for listening


  13. I know how is difficult to live with this shit. These days i feel like i’m fighting against myself just to get up from the bed. And sometimes even the things that make me feel better are not working. Maybe the medication is not working so well… i just want to stay in my place, sleep and be in silence…

    1. i am also dysythimc and at i feel exactly what you’ve described but to get thru this you really need to push yourself and get out of i know its usually very hard..but a shower sometimes helps me to be up for atleast afew hours

  14. I’ve had dysthymia for yrs but was just diagnosed in the spring. I’ve been on several antidepressants that seem to help for a month or two. Lately I’ve been in a down cycle. when things are wrong I get really down and just dont feel like I can ever make anything right anymore. How do you get over people being so mean?, so selfish? Those who wrongly blame and lash out. I’ve had therapists say that it is our choice to let others hurt our feelings. Really? I’m not getting that. I don’t chose to get my feelings hurt. I don’t like feeling this way. I’ve really been very unhappy lately with other people taking their anger out on me. How do we make these negative, damaging feelings go away?

  15. I’m so surprised how much everyone’s story sounds like my life. I’m in my late 40’s and have been depressed probably all my life. I have been on many of the SSRI’s. Most work for a little while. Some have severely worsened my depression. I’m currently on Lexapro, for about 4mo now and I “think” it is working. I’m going to be starting cognitive therapy tomorrow. I’m really hoping it doesn’t let me down. Joi’s post sounds exactly like me! People tend to depress me. I don’t understand meanness, rudeness, etc. I know therapists say it is a choice to feel down but I don’t agree at all. I’m hoping the cognitive therapy can help retrain my brain from it’s natural negative thought patterns. Sometimes I get so down that I feel there is no way to ever feel better. i also think my brain translates anxiety into depression. If I’m going through an anxious period I get depressed. I have always been an introvert, the outsider in an extroverted world. My self-esteem truly sucks. I really don’t want to be this person anymore. I have a whole image of who I want to be, that just seems like a dream though. It is almost helpful to read that so many of you understand how I feel. I don’t know anyone in person with dysthymia. Others just don’t understand. Thank you Mark for sharing and starting this website for all of us. And thank you to all the others who haved shared a part of themselves. I think it helps us.

  16. This forum has been enormously enlightening, and I thank you all.

    I am not dysthymic, but the love of my life is, and keeping our relationship alive is demanding. He loves me, and I love him, but the overwhelming feeling of helplessness and lack of energy that he constantly lives with is very difficult, especially for him, but also for our relationship.

    He had been living in isolation for over 10 years before we reconnected together. He wasn’t able to work, because interacting with people at the work place would create an even worse depressive state. He had been completely incapacitated by his dysthymia for all those years, with no understanding from his family and very few measures to help himself, especially from the public health system.

    He is a very intelligent man, and his genius should not be wasted. With me in his life and the little help I can give him, he was able to start a Masters degree. At the moment, he must write up a couple of articles, and he is hopelessly without energy to accomplish this. He wants to work, but he cannot concentrate, and I think that this may be due to the fact that he just doesn’t believe that he can accomplish anything (self-esteem), even though he has shown his literary genius many times before.

    He is currently working with a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist. I have spoken with both of them, but dysthymia is a disease that even professionals have difficulties dealing with, and is still widely misunderstood. The medication and therapy does help, but not fast enough, he needs to work for his own career, and even though he knows this, he just cannot bring himself to do it.

    How can I help him? This may not be the place to ask this question, but I love him and I want to help him accomplish himself, and I wish to help in anyway I can. Sincere thanks to all of you.

  17. It’s good to know others out there have similar struggles. I was diagnosed two years ago and just this week felt myself slipping back into depression. Over eating, lack of motivation, too much sleep, trouble getting motivated. Isn’t it frustrating?! I thought I had it beat, but I think it is just one of those conditions where it’s important to recognize that we’ll never ‘be done with it’ Heading out for a walk now with my dog, but just wanted to say thanks to everyone that has shared.

  18. Reading all of the stories on this website the similarities to my own life are amazing. I have always been a shy person and have difficulties enjoying things as much as those around me. I still have a few close friends but for the most part i am anti social. I think the main reason for this is that I’m always so worried about what other people think about me.
    I’ve never had any intimate relationships for more than a few months because of low self esteem and constantly doubting myself. Just recently my neurologist mentioned that I might have dysthymia so i started to do some research. I truly believe I have dysthymia because the symptoms basically described my personality. It’s just a relief to know that I’m not alone and there are other people who feel the same way I do. I have also been dealing with epilepsy for more than 10 years now and that only make matters worse. It just makes me feel more isolated and alone. I still have a job working with autistic teenagers so that helps my social life. But unfortunately I can’t drive because of my seizures and that really bothers me sometimes having to ask people for rides all the time.
    But now that i know that feeling down all the time is an actual condition I am going to try to get the best treatment possible.

  19. Reading all of your messages brought tears to my eyes. I can relate so very much. I too was diagnosed with Dysthymia this past week. It’s been a struggle all of my life, not knowing why I’m ‘this way’ but it’s a relief to know it’s an actual condition and that so many of your feelings mirror my own. Identifying a problem is the first step to repairing it as they say. I’m hopeful I can make life better for myself but I know it will take a change in the way of thinking, perceptions. It’s like teaching an old dog new tricks and that isn’t easy. My Dysthymia I believe started to develop in my childhood from some parenting issues, lacking attention and encouragement at home and being teased and bullied through middle school which led to my first memories of real depression. From there it led me to seeking the wrong attention with the wrong people, not knowing who I am really, happiness on the outside, frustration and lost feelings on the inside, like a tug o war. About 2 or 3 years ago I started to become very irritated with my Mom, mainly with things she would say she would do but never would. I have no idea why that began to frustrate me out of nowhere but it led to many fights and left me questioning what’s going on. The feelings brought up a lot of things from growing up that still hurt to this day. I began therapy about a year ago and am now finally getting some answers but now I need to know how to feel better. How does one undo 40 years of feeling pain from others??? At the suggestion of my therapist, I’m going to start attending a weekly group depression therapy session next month. I hope it helps and I look forward to meeting other ‘like minded’ people there. I want to enjoy life again. I want to feel happy from the inside out. Thank you all for sharing your stories. We are the support that each other needs to get through this.

    1. Thanks for commenting. You can and will get through this. I am not sure it is about “undoing” 40 years of feeling pain. It may be about just coming to terms with these emotions. We cannot go back and change things. We have to somehow learn to live in the present. Not always easy I realize.

  20. Have any of those diagnosed with dysthymia ever received TMS or ECT treatments? I am interested if anyone has been helped by these options.

    1. hello everyone,

      I posted on here some time ago also because I suffer from a low grade depression which often spills over into distressing anxiety. I still do. However, I would like to share a link that some people may be interested in. I am in a mindfulness based recovery community in Thailand at the moment. It was something I came across while traveling and living here. I hope that my time here will help me to let go of some difficult emotions and also to manage my highs and lows in a healthier way. Please have a look..

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  22. Up until today I had no idea dysthymia even existed. I always thought because my ordepression or “sadness” wasn’t at the point of complete hopelessness that it is unjustified or me just having a bad day. It has already made me feel better knowing its not just me and that it is real. Although ive not been diagnosed i know for sure i have dystymia, reading the symptoms is like reading a personality description of myself. For me it’s tough, I feel I can’t reach out to my family or friends even though they are always there for me. Currently my grandad is in a psychiatric hospital for depression and my mum is having a really hard time watching her father battle it. The thing is I don’t want to further burden her. Also my best friend found her friend who had committed suicide and she is still dealing with that so im afraid I will just worry her. I want to get better, I want to be happy. Writing really helps me and reading everyone’s advice has been so eye opening which is a start.

  23. I just discovered this…and I hate to say it, but it’s nice to know that I’m not alone. I wouldn’t wish this illness on anyone. I have been dealing with this since I was in my teens (I’m 50 now) – I always thought I had a problem, but it didn’t seem that bad – I could go to school, get a job – function – so in the end I just thought it was “who I am.” A loaner, a loser – someone with no worth… It was so hard to reach out for help (after all my dysthymic voice was screaming at me that I wasn’t worth it), but I did after a friend and therapist left a brochure for me to find. And even then it took a month or two to make the call. Now a year and a half into talk therapy and on medication I am discovering who I really am – None of those things I said above.

    I was reluctant to take medication. I felt like it was giving in – or maybe admitting that I was not strong enough to do it on my own. Silly me. I haven’t felt this strong in a long long time.

    I still struggle. I’ve had a bad few weeks just lately – but spring is here and some long walks in the sun and fresh air have helped. So does reaching out – yes helping others does do a world of good.

    1. So glad you have reached out. It IS hard for those of us who have this disorder. I am on a bit of a high right now for the past few weeks. But at times I get to be down and in a bit of a funk and it can be difficult to get out of it.

      Glad you are on a positive path. You do have worth. That much I know.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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