Dysthymic Disorder in Women
Dysthymic disorder, or dysthymia, is characterized by
- Low mood, sadness, and/or chronic feelings of hopelessness — you feel low most of the day, most days, for months on end without any precipitating event or catalyst for these feelings.
- Sleep issues — Women suffering from dysthymic disorder report both insomnia and hypersomnia (sleeping excessive numbers of hours).
- Appetite changes and weight changes — for some women, loss of appetite and weight loss are part of the clinical presentation of dysthymia, while for others weight gain occurs.
- Trouble concentrating and/or making decisions
- Fatigue, lethargy, feeling “blah” and being unable to shake it off
To receive a diagnosis of dysthymia, your symptoms cannot meet diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD). Dysthymia is less intense than MDD: one writer compares it to a drizzle as opposed to a downpour or thunderstorm.
Not Just Complaining
It can be difficult to get help for dysthymia. “Bad moods” are seen as normal, and many women experience intense societal pressure to continue to function regardless of how they might feel. Feeling OK, or even happy, for just a day or two here and there, while the vast majority of life is spent in a gray haze of sadness is not normal. Speaking up about these issues is not complaining.
See your family doctor, or seek help from a therapist or psychiatrist. Women’s mental health issues are serious medical concerns. Treatment is available, from well-tolerated and effective medications to psychotherapeutic approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. You are not destined to feel like this for the rest of your life. It is possible to feel better, sleep better, and enjoy a normal range of emotions. The first step is seeking a proper diagnosis and treatment.