Do I have depression or is it dysthymia?

Most people are familiar with the term depression but fewer people are aware of something called dysthymia. So what is the difference between the two?

We can all suffer from days when we are feeling low in mood, low in energy, sometimes demotivated, disinterested or pessimistic. When we are genuinely depressed these symptoms can start to impact on our daily functioning. They may affect our social lives, personal lives and interfere with our ability to do our job. In major depression this low mood can become so intense that we can fail to function completely and may have frequent suicidal thoughts that we may act on. To be formally diagnosed this must have been a persistent feature of your experience for at least 2 weeks continuously. But there is another category of low mood that is less well known or even recognised, that is dysthymia.

So what's the difference?

Dysthymia, which is now often referred to as Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), will often present with fewer symptoms, the difference here is that the symptoms with be less severe but will have been around alot longer that with Major Depression, this usually means at least 2 years. This is in stark contrast to Major Depression which is more severe and of much shorter duration.

Despite dysthymia being less severe, the duration of its presence can mean its even more disruptive than Major Depression which can be short in duration. Both manifestations of low mood are serious and help should be sought.

What are the symptoms?

Loss of appetite or overeating
Problems sleeping
Low energy or tiredness
Low self-esteem
Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Feelings of hopelessness

With dysthymia you will have at least two of the above along with low mood pretty much continuously for 2 years. With major depression, 5 of the above are usually present for at least the last 2 weeks and should usually manifest as more severe in intensity and may also include suicidal ideation.

Both treatments should be taken seriously and are treatable. Ruling out any organic causes to low mood is also important and therefore talking to your GP is a good idea in the first instance. Talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) are usually recommended along with medications that usually involve antidepressants such as SSRIs. Also, you should consider life style choices such as health eating, avoidance of drugs and alcohol and getting regular exercise. Don't suffer needlessly, the prognosis once the right help is sought is usually good so pick up the phone or email a professional. Here at the LPC we are experts in working with these disorders so don't hesitate to contact us and book a consultation.