What Is Dysthymia or Chronic Sadness?

At some point in our lives, many of us have probably felt overcome by sorrow and negative thoughts that force us to rethink many things in our lives. Sometimes we learn a lot by going through these difficult moments, and find appropriate coping strategies. But other times, this isn't the case.  
What Is Dysthymia or Chronic Sadness?

Last update: 09 October, 2022

We all know what it’s like to feel sad and go through difficult times. But what happens if chronic sadness develops?

What happens if this internal discomfort, this grief and despair, just don’t go away and keep dragging us down each day for months, or even years?

In this case, we’re talking about a disorder called dysthymia, which is a bit different from the classic depression and which is worth knowing a little more about.

Keep reading to learn about dysthymia, also known as chronic sadness.

What is dysthymia or chronic sadness?

What Is Dysthymia or Chronic Sadness?

Chronic sadness is a type of depression but with important expressive and emotional nuances. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) classifies it quite clearly under another name: persistent depressive disorder.

Here are the main characteristics:

  • It’s a state of chronic sadness and discouragement. There are no periods which are better or worse, but this negative emotional sensation often lasts for more than two years.
  • It’s worth knowing that this type of disorder isn’t dependent upon any “external factors.” That is, it isn’t necessary to have suffered from some sort of loss or a disappointment to fall into this type of depression. Its origin is organic and almost always hereditary, and generally affects women.
  • It usually appears at about age 21.
  • There are a few very serious cases, where for example the person is unable to even care for themselves and needs daily help to eat and get dressed… These are cases of very severe dysthymia.
  • Despite having a hereditary component, stress tends to worsen even more the feeling of dejection, so much so that one can end up falling into the more serious state as previously mentioned.
  • In addition to the chronic sadness, the person may also suffer moodiness, fatigue, insomnia, eating disorders and difficulty concentrating.
  • If the dysthymia isn’t treated early, it can lead to major depression which is an even more serious mental disorder often accompanied by anger, rage and even suicide attempts. This is very dangerous and shows the importance of treating these types of problems as early as possible.

How is dysthymia treated?

What Is Dysthymia or Chronic Sadness?

Firstly, we must have clearly in mind that dysthymia is a disease that must be managed throughout our life.

Can we enjoy a good quality of life day by day? Of course. The following guidelines, and of course seeking professional assistance, can help:

  • Antidepressant medication.
  • Follow behavioral and cognitive psychotherapy, even more from group therapy.
  • Have regular medical monitoring throughout your entire life.
  • Have a good social and personal support circle.

We must keep in mind, above all, that the origin of dysthymia is hereditary, and therefore, organic.

There’s almost always a slight alteration in the neurotransmitters of serotonin. This means that medication will be effective and that psychological therapy will undoubtedly be a great help.

However, these treatments must be followed nearly all your life. That said, you can still enjoy your daily life, go to work and fulfill your dreams and goals.

Now then, people who have been diagnosed with dysthymia must be aware of their own problem and maintain a great internal force to understand what has occurred.

This is a disease that must be controlled and treated. Above all, a person who suffers from this illness must try to adequately alleviate any sources of stress and anxiety, because these can become triggers of the most severe state of dysthymia.

What Is Dysthymia or Chronic Sadness?

Also remember that if someone in your family has this disorder, you have a greater likelihood of suffering from it as well. Take action, speak with your doctor and follow all their suggestions.

Lastly, we must also point out that it’s important to know how to differentiate between dysthymia and normal depression:

  • Dysthymia usually appears around age 21 or before. It’s a state of permanent sadness that doesn’t have any concrete reasons or origin for this emotion, this despondency. It lasts from one and a half years to two years. And if it’s not treated early on, it can develop into a more serious depression which is sometimes accompanied by suicide attempts.

If you believe that you or someone you know is suffering from chronic sadness, please seek proper help for a better quality of life.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.