For many people the sad reality of depression is that it rumbles on, sometimes year on year. Yet, despite their feelings of despair, often coupled with eating problems, sleep difficulties, poor mental focus and low-self worth, they somehow manage to go about their daily tasks.
This form of depression has a name - dysthymia. It isn't always easy to spot because people can become adept at covering it over when necessary. If this isn't bad enough, people with dysthymia can actually become clinically depressed; referred to as double depression.
On average, dysthymia lasting beyond four years affects around 30 per cent of people who suffer with it. In other words 70 per cent have relief from symptoms before this period, but not less than two years.
Treatment options for dysthymia are similar to those for clinical depression. However, the protracted nature of dysthymia suggests that one of the talking therapies might be the preferred treatment option. Research into the effectiveness of medications such as tricyclic or SSRI antidepressants is mixed. Those that report improvements do not distinguish between first (tricyclics) or second (SSRIs) generation medications. Other studies find no effects at all.
Many people with dysthymia have previously received medication for depression only to find that while they no longer fit within the category of clinical depression, their mood state is far from normal.
There are no hard and fast rules for how best to cope with dysthymia but sufferers have pointed to certain things that have helped their own situation. A summary of these follows:
- Dysthymia support groups.
- Regular daily exercise.
- St.John's Wort.
- Omega-3 via fish or other supplements.
- Psychotherapy (CBT, family therapy, solution-focused therapy)
- Tricyclic or SSRI antidepressants.
- Stopping smoking.
- Cutting out alcohol.
- Cutting out caffeine.
- Cutting out sugary drinks, snacks & processed foods.
- Zinc and/or potassium supplements.
With most of these things, in isolation or in combination, it takes time to feel any effects. Some, as in the case of exercise or cutting out smoking or drinking, may have more immediate effects.