What people usually pass off as “being in a bad mood” or just “feeling run down” is now understood as potentially the symptoms of a known medical condition. It is called dysthymia, and the symptoms include a low level of energy and mood, loss of appetite, sleep, and reluctance to engage in social activities.
It is believed to affect around three percent of the population, however it typically goes unreported and untreated as people generally do not believe the symptoms to be an actual disorder.
“Sufferers are often unaware of a problem and see it as who they are,” according to Professor Craig Jackson, head of psychology at Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom/
Only about half of those who have dysthymia ever seek treatment for it, and most live with the condition for 30 years. It differs from depression in that it is so long lasting and not temporary.
According to the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellent, the guidelines for a diagnosis of dysthymia are two symptoms of depression which last two years or more. For a depression diagnosis, it is three symptoms in two weeks.
People are much more likely to develop clinical depression while having dysthymia In fact, 75 percent of people will have a depressive episode have dysthymia. Fortunately, that point is when sufferers decide to seek professional help.
It does tend to run in families, however researchers cannot say with certainty that it is in a person’s genes. However, a child raised in a household where dysthymia is present will no doubt be affected by such an environment.
Antidepressants are usually prescribed for cases of dysthymia, however their efficacy is scant. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been tried and is thought to be a much better course of treatment. Research is ongoing, but having a name for this previously mysterious condition is giving patients hope for the future.