Depression is an illness that can significantly affect your health and well-being, especially if the condition is left untreated. While a common belief is that the symptoms of depression are obvious, the unfortunate reality is that many individuals suffer from dysthymia, also referred to as mild, chronic depression. The condition is often misdiagnosed or mistaken for stress, exhaustion or run-of-the-mill moodiness. Sadly, individuals with dysthymia may simply accept their feelings as normal and continue down a path of hopelessness without receiving the help they need, which in turn can increase the risk of developing major depressive disorder. However, there is hope. Understanding the signs of mild, chronic depression can help sufferers obtain the help they need in order to move forward in a healthy and positive fashion.
Loss of Interest in Socializing and Daily Activities
Loss of interest in socializing and daily activities often accompanies mild, chronic depression. Sufferers may find themselves declining invitations, which can lead to being labeled as "antisocial" by friends and family members. They may also find themselves making multiple excuses when declining invites or cancelling plans at the last minute, as the idea of going out is simply exhausting. Sufferers may also find that activities or hobbies such as exercise, gardening or even watching their favorite television programs no longer hold any interest.
Sleep disturbances are common in individuals with both dysthymia and major depression. Sleep disturbances can range from insomnia to excessive sleeping during the day. Individuals with mild depression may also experience episodic sleep patterns in which they wake up every few hours due to disturbing dreams or nightmares.
Individuals who suffer from dysthymia may experience extreme mood fluctuations in which they can feel happy one moment and sad in the next. They may also experience extended periods of irritability or feel "dull" when it comes to any type of emotion. While it is common for everyone to experience moments of irritability or intense emotions, individuals with dysthymia tend to live with a roller coaster of mood fluctuations on a regular basis.
Loss of Appetite-Overeating
Loss of appetite or overeating is a common symptom of dysthymia, as well as major depression. Loss of interest in daily activities can lead to a loss of interest in eating, while depleted energy due to sleep disruptions can lead to a lack of energy when it comes to cooking or preparing meals. Alternatively, depressed individuals may overeat in order to fill the void of hopelessness that many sufferers feel. Overeating due to depression is often referred to as emotional eating, as sufferers experience a sense of peace and comfort when indulging in excess amounts of food.
Dysthymia is often treated with antidepressant medications and talk therapy. In many cases, sufferers are advised that they may be suffering from depression when seeking medical attention for stress or exhaustion. If a physician suspects a patient is depressed, they may provide them with a therapist referral in order to obtain a proper diagnosis. Treatment for dysthymia is often longer in duration, due to the fact that sufferers tend to be conditioned to feeling chronically unhappy and it can take time to adapt to new patterns of thinking.
A Healthy and Positive Future
Mild, chronic depression affects approximately 3 to 6 percent of the entire population and can lead to major depressive disorder if not treated. Understanding the subtle signs of the condition and seeking the assistance of a professional therapist can help sufferers understand the underlying cause of their illness and move towards a healthy and positive future.