Although major clinical depression is a condition recognized and experienced by much of the population, a less severe form of depression, dysthymia, is not as easily detected. In fact, dysthymia was not even considered an actual and treatable form of depression until fairly recently. Low levels of happiness but no major or severe symptoms of depression were present such as, appetite loss, inability to function, anxiety or numb feelings, etc.
Those with dysthymia would simply assume they were just feeling a bit down and didn't realize that their lack of happiness could be helped with proper diagnosis and treatment. Some may even self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs but end up feeling even worse. Alcohol might numb the sadness but leave a greater depression afterwards, making it a very ineffective antidepressant.
So what is dysthymia? It is a form of depression, although it often presents itself with far less severe symptoms, making it easy to dismiss as a case of "the blues". Many people can go to work, interact with their children or pretend to be happy. They may even fool friends, neighbors and their family members, but If they had this form of depression (also known as Dysthymic Disorder) long enough, they may not actually realize that something is wrong.
They may feel that this is normal life and that they simply can't be happy. They don't feel terrible but they don't feel good, either. Some people describe it as a sense of being disconnected.
This depression is not something that has to be accepted and with proper diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference. In order to be treated, however, this low level form of depression must be recognized. Signs of dysthymia include many of the symptoms of severe depression but in a milder form.
These symptoms include feeling sad, having trouble sleeping, aching joints, appetite changes like eating too much or too little, bouts of anxiety, never feeling truly joyful or engaged in life. Although thoughts of death or suicide can occur most often in severe depression, they may also be present in dysthymia and are always a warning sign to get immediate help. Suicidal thoughts are less common in dysthymia but is always a possibility.
Dysthymic depression can have a huge impact on friendships as well as family life. Holidays are not as joyous and other events are also affected by the low mood of the depressed individual, even if the symptoms aren't severe and sometimes families will adapt. However, after treatment, this person may comment on how much better life seems to have improved. Happily, drugs are not always necessary for someone with dysthymic depression. Lifestyle changes and natural remedies may be enough.
Unlike those who go through periodic bouts of severe clinical depression, the causes of dysthymic depression may vary. Sometimes individuals have something as treatable as a low thyroid where dietary and lifestyle changes can make a huge difference, bringing happiness back after all hope was lost. Natural remedies and lifestyle changes can also make a huge difference, potentially curing this type of depression. Antidepressants may be used as well but those with low level depression may be urged to try the natural approach first. It should be enough.
A regular exercise routine may be a starting point for this form of depression and can bypass the need for antidepressants entirely. One tip that can have a strong impact, when ever possible, try to exercise outside, like walking or running. There is evidence that sunlight can help regulate brain chemistry which affects depression. It could be especially important to increase light exposure during the winter months and light kits are available to help out with this. Eating a diet rich in nutrients will support the immune system and seratonin levels. If you add that to proper thyroid function that can be enough to bring a dysthymic person out of depression.
Talk therapy or group therapy can also help those with this form of depression to get support and help. Being around others who understand can help teach new ways of dealing with the world and improve the mood of a depressed person.
A good therapist can also help put things in perspective and avoid a reliance on antidepressants. If antidepressants are used, they should only be used as a last resort and a person with dysthymia should not be pressured to try medications until most alternatives have been explored. If medication is used, it can often be stopped after a short bout of counseling and significant lifestyle changes to reduce stress and increase quality of life.