Form of chronic, mild depresson often goes untreated

Here and Now

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A disorder called dysthymia is a mild, chronic depression that could last for decades. An estimated five percent of people have it, but most who do, don’t know they have it and typically don’t seek treatment. That can have consequences for their work, family and social lives, and may even put them at higher risk of suicide.

Michelle Gerdes suffers from dysthymia, but wasn’t aware early on that anything was wrong. She always thought her gloomy outlook was just part of her personality.

“It was feeling gloomy, moodiness, self-consciousness, quick to anger — and for a long time I thought this is just my personality, this was just who I was,” said Gerdes.

According to Dr. Daniel Klein, chairman of the psychology department at Stony Brook University, Gerdes’ story is quite common.

“It’s common particularly for people who have an early onset of dysthymia, which may start in childhood or adolescence, to sort of come to see it as who they are,” Klein said. “And in some cases, not even to recognize that their feeling state is different from the way most other people feel.”

Chronic mild depression could result in:
– persistent feelings of hopelessness
– irritability
– low self-esteem
– low energy
– loss of interest in pleasure
– sleep difficulty
– self-blame

Major depression typically has an acute onset, says Klein, whereas dysthymia develops slowly, “insidiously.” He says people with dysthymia are more likely to be unemployed, and more likely to be single or divorced.


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