The National Institute of Mental Health reports that approximately 1.5 percent of adults in the United States are diagnosed with Dysthymia. While not as severe as major depression, Dysthymia has symptoms that can last for years. Patients with Dysthymia may also experience overlapping episodes of major depression, known as “double depression.”
The causes of Dysthymia are inconclusive; however, some possible contributing factors are genetics, abnormal neurological pathways in the brain, chronic illness, medication, and life stressors. Signs and symptoms can begin in childhood or adulthood and are more common in women. Symptoms include loss of happiness, insomnia, excessive sleep, and chronic fatigue, as well as feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and guilt. More severe symptoms include weight loss, thoughts of death, and premeditated suicide.
Although Dysthymia is a debilitating and energy draining illness, it can be successfully managed and treated. Clinicians may use a combination of antidepressant medications and psychotherapy, depending on the severity of the illness.