What’s the Difference Between Depression and Dysthymia?

What’s the Difference Between Depression and Dysthymia?

Depression affects about 16 million Americans every year. The World Health Organization calls depression the number one cause of disability worldwide. Symptoms typically include prolonged feelings of sadness, fatigue, irritability, aggression, lack of motivation, disturbed sleep, poor memory and concentration, feelings of hopelessness, physical aches, and thoughts of suicide or death. The symptoms of depression may be so bad you can’t even get out of bed. To be diagnosed with depression, you have to have at least five of these symptoms for at least two weeks. An episode of depression can last anywhere from several weeks to several months and if you’ve had three or more episodes of depression, it may return without apparent cause.

Dysthymia is a milder, chronic form of depression that may last two years or longer. It affects about 1.5 percent of Americans. The symptoms of dysthymia are the same as major depression but people with dysthymia typically experience fewer symptoms. To be diagnosed with depression, you must have at least five symptoms that persist for at least two weeks but to be diagnosed with dysthymia you only need three symptoms. Although the symptoms of dysthymia are not as intense as those of major depression, they are a persistent drag, making people feel less happy, less focused, and less motivated. These symptoms are so persistent that suffers often mistake them for personality traits and can’t remember what life was like without dysthymia.

It’s not uncommon for someone suffering from dysthymia to also experience an episode of worsening symptoms that become major depression. This is called “double depression.” While most people who suffer an episode of major depression feel fine when they aren’t in the midst of a depressive episode, people with double depression experience a low grade, persistent dark mood even when not suffering a depressive episode. For these people, “normal” is slightly depressed. People with double depression tend to feel more hopeless than people who are only experiencing an episode of major depression. People with double depression are also more likely to use drugs and alcohol, and more likely to suffer health problems like heart disease.

Dysthymia is treated much like major depression, with a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants. It’s especially important for people with dysthymia or double depression to work with a therapist to address the feelings of hopelessness that are more pronounced in those conditions. Otherwise, the major depression could be relieved but the underlying dysthymia could remain. Healthy lifestyle changes like regular exercise and a healthy diet have also been proven effective in reducing symptoms of depression.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.

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