Low Grade Depression

Most parents are familiar with the term low grade fever. A child who has a slight temperature, not high enough to arouse alarm and yet, not quite normal is described as running a low grade temperature. Dysthymia is a term used by psychologists to describe something similar in terms of mood function. Dysthymia describes a condition of chronic, low grade depression which is experienced by as much as six percent of our population. As with other types of depression, dysthymia is two times more common among women as it is among men.

The Harvard Medical School Report

Not too long ago Harvard Medical school issued a report on depression which likened the condition to a color wheel in which many tones and shades of a single hue appear. Depression, the report said, is a single color (condition) with a wide range of intensity. In other words a person can have deep or light mood disorders and the lighter varieties which do not qualify as major depression are called dysthymia. The darkest tones would be major depressive disorders, and the lighter tones represent low grade depression.

Symptoms Which Mark Low Grade Depression

Since dysthymia is a form of depression, it shares plenty of symptoms with other types of depression. In order to be diagnosed with dysthymia an adult must experience low mood for a minimum of two years, while only one year of low mood is necessary for younger people (kids and teens). In addition, the person must experience two of the following symptoms:

  1. Problems sleeping – this could mean oversleeping or insomnia
  2. Poor or low self-image
  3. Low energy and lack of motivation
  4. Eating changes – this could manifest as an increase or decrease in appetite
  5. Trouble focusing or paying attention
  6. General sense of hopelessness

Major depression is distinguishable from dysthymia because in addition to the above symptoms, the person also has difficulty experiencing pleasure and is prone to suicidal ideation.

Why Dysthymia is Something About Which To Be Concerned

While a child’s low grade temperature may not be a serious concern, it does warrant attention and, if it persists, could be a sign of more serious matters. In the same way, although dysthymia is not as critical as major depression it does give reason for concern. To begin with dysthymia often occurs during the younger years of life and puts a person at greater risk for developing major depression later on. The Harvard report suggested that close to three quarters of those who receive a dysthymia diagnosis will go on to experience major depression before five years have passed. Thankfully, dysthymia, or low grade depression, is highly treatable. Studies show that in four out of every five cases, persons living with dysthymia can find healing and restored healthy mood function. Thus, identifying low grade depression, especially in younger people, is a key way to head off incidences of major depression before they have a chance to take hold.

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