I have written previously about the most serious form of depression, what is called Major Depressive Disorder and sometimes referred to as clinical depression. But another type of depression is important to note: Dysthymic Disorder. This type of depression is characterized by long–term (two years or longer; 1 year in adolescents and children) but less severe symptoms that may not disable a person but can prevent someone from functioning normally or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetimes. It is estimated that dysthymia affects 36% of patients in outpatient mental health treatment.
Aside from the criteria for diagnosing dysthymia, what does a person with this disorder experience? I have found that a person will describe a “dark cloud” hovering over them for most of the time. Or a person will speak of always feeling this way, even going back to childhood. People with dysthymia often have a gloomy or negative outlook on life with an underlying sense of personal inadequacy There’s a profound loss of vitality; a person is simply going through the motions with little enjoyment or joy. While this person may not be as disabled as are people with major depressive disorder, still his or her life seems as bleak and joyless.
Despite the long term nature of this type of depression, psychotherapy is effective in reducing the symptoms of depression, and assisting the person in managing his or her life better. Some individuals with dysthymic disorder respond well to antidepressant medication, in addition to psychotherapy, so an evaluation for medication may be appropriate.