A recent Wall Street Journal article by Melinda Beck illustrates the far reaching effects of dysthymia, or chronic, low-grade depression lasting for more than two years. Despite its ominous name, dysthymia (dis-THY-mia) displays qualities we might find endearing or even charming. Think Eeyore or Woody Allen, and you have pretty good idea of some of the personality traits of someone suffering from dysthymia.
However, according to the article, researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University found "that those who fit the criteria for dysthymia were more likely to have physical and emotional problems and more likely to be on Medicaid or Social Security disability than those with acute depression." Moreover, people with chronic depression have problems in their relationships and in social settings, leading to more severe bouts of depression for nearly 80% of those who suffer from the disorder.
Dysthymia will affect about 5% of Americans at some point in their lives. This figure, however, is likely misleading because the symptoms of low-grade depression are easy to mask or are simply misunderstood and ignored, especially among men. But as mental health experts gain a better understanding of the long-term effects of chronic depression, more people see a growing need for treatment of low-grade depression.
The various treatments of dysthymia look similar to those for more severe depression. Patients will sometimes respond quickly to an anti-depressant, while others will have to try several drugs or a mixture of anti-depressants before responding to treatment. Talk therapy, such as Behavioral Cognitive Therapy and Behavioral Activation Therapy, has shown promising results in early studies.
Although it can be triggered by traumatic events in our lives, depression is often rooted in emotions that have been buried in our minds for a long time. Many therapists specialize in emotional release therapies, such as Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), to uncover subconscious emotions and resolve the internal conflicts that drive depression.
For anyone suffering from chronic or acute depression, safe and effective help is available.