Dysthymia is a chronic disease that patients struggle with for many years. However, many people with dysthymia do not seek help. Why? Often they do not realize that the conditions they experience are due to disease and usually neglect the accompanying symptoms. Around other people, they are perceived as colourless, introverted, uninterested in entertainment and cheerless. What exactly is dysthymia and how does it manifest itself?
Although their symptoms may resemble depression, people with dysthymia do not manifest their moods with such intensity. This is also one of the reasons for confusing dysthymia with ordinary blandness or seasonal/temporary depressed mood. People who suffer from depressive neurosis (another name for dysthymia) have reduced levels of the neurotransmitters noradrenaline and serotonin, and their hormonal balance is disturbed. As a result, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-thyroid axis does not work properly. Today, it is estimated that up to 5% of society are suffering from dysthymia. The majority of them are women, as many as 65%, although it is said that this may be due to downplaying of mental problems by men and aversion to therapy. The onset of symptoms usually occurs between 20 and 30 years of life, although there have been cases of much younger or older people.
“Boys are not allowed to cry”
Although specialists are still working on the most accurate determination of the causes of dysthymia, the most common reasons for its occurrence are considered genetic (as many as 50% of the cases are inherited) followed by children’s internal conflicts. This conflict usually occurs in the desire-need line. It can be a situation when the child is crying and the parents ignore them or require modesty, while the child wants to show off something or be the centre of attention. The basis of dysthymia may arise from the parents’ expectations when the child tries to become independent and the carers enforce the obligation to devote themselves to the family. Most often this situation occurs when one parent raises a child alone (only child or the youngest child). Another mistake is to teach children that negative emotions should be hidden. How often in our environment you hear the saying: “girls are not allowed to get angry”, “boys are not allowed to cry.” Constant reiteration of these can cause a feeling of contradiction and conflict with the child’s own needs. Negative emotions are a natural part of life! People who had to suppress sadness, depression, anger, etc. have a tendency to be depressed by neurosis.
Fun fact: people whose own desires, aspirations and needs are forcibly tamed usually take risk-related work as adults. Very often, such positions are not consistent with their predispositions, which only increases the occurrence of psychological and psychosomatic symptoms. Modern pressure and the “rat race” also exacerbate the symptoms. Researchers also noted that people with stomach problems, mononucleosis, and thymus gland disease are more likely to develop dysthymia.
Generally speaking, people diagnosed with dysthymia say they feel less joy in life, they don’t enjoy their own successes, they withdraw from social life, they are perceived as loners and they seem to be sad. They also have a feeling of being lost and constant fear of their own lives. Such symptoms occur for at least 2 years.
Other symptoms of dysthymia:
- low self-esteem
- a state of constant sadness, depression
- lack of appetite or hunger pangs
- large weight fluctuations in short intervals – gaining or losing even a few kilos in a month
- sleep disorders (e.g. excessive sleepiness, insomnia, too long sleep, inefficient sleep)
- disturbed concentration
- anhedonia – the inability to feel pleasure
- difficulty making decisions
- decrease in life energy
- constant fatigue
- no hope for improvement of mental state
- feeling irritated
- suicidal thoughts
- guilt or chronic stomach pain and problems may appear
Do you feel the article is about you? Have you suffered from these symptoms for at least 2 years? Contact a psychotherapist and give yourself a chance of a normal life!