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Dysthymia: what you need to know about this chronic mood disorder

Dysthymia: what are we talking about exactly?

Small point of etymology. The word “dysthymia” comes from the ancient Greek “dys-” (which refers to a disorder) and “thymia” (which indicates mood).

Dysthymia: definition. Dysthymia is defined as a depressed mood that lasts (more or less continuously) for at least 2 years. In detail: the depressed mood is present (at least) every other day, and the “positive” periods (when the person feels good) do not last more than two months. “ In medical language, we talk more about persistent depressive disorder “, underlines Dr. Marc Masson, psychiatrist.

To know. Dysthymic disorder (or “persistent depressive disorder”, therefore) can affect adults but also children or adolescents. In the youngest, we observe a depressed mood that lasts for (at least) 1 year. Dysthymic disorders are not rare: experts estimate that between 0.5% and 1% of the French population is affected.

What are the symptoms of dysthymia?

The main symptom of persistent depressive disorder (or dysthymia) is depressed mood. “ This is characterized in particular by a feeling of sadness, gloom, spontaneous crying, and a negative perception of oneself and the environment. “explains Dr. Marc Masson.

In case of dysthymia, other symptoms may accompany this depressed mood – ” the diagnosis is made when there are (at least) two among this list “adds the specialist:

  • A disturbed appetite: the person eats very little or, on the contrary, has an increased appetite,
  • Sleep disorders: the person cannot fall asleep at night and / or wakes up during the night or, on the contrary, sleeps excessively (hypersomnia),
  • Fatigue: the person feels a loss of tone, both physically and psychologically,
  • Low self-esteem: the person does not feel “capable”, has the feeling of being “good for nothing” …,
  • Difficulty concentrating and / or making decisions,
  • A loss of hope for the future.

Dysthymia is a mood disorder which has a real impact on daily life: it is in particular a gene in social, professional and / or family relationships “adds the psychiatrist.

What is the difference between depression and dysthymia?In dysthymic disorder, there is no anhedonia, that is to say loss of the feeling of pleasure on a daily basis, explains Dr. Marc Masson. In addition, a person who suffers from dysthymia will not have psychomotor slowing down (actions and thoughts that seem “slower”) or suicidal thoughts, unlike a person who is going through a marked depressive episode – or depression. The symptoms of dysthymia are therefore less intense overall than in depression.

Dysthymia: what are the risk factors?Risk factors for dysthymia are common to mood disorders in general “explains the psychiatrist. Thus, in the event of a family history of mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorders, dysthymia …) there is a greater risk of developing a persistent depressive disorder. Alcohol consumption and / or cannabis (especially in younger children) is also a major risk factor.

Treatments: what treatment for dysthymia?

In addition to the management of associated disorders (addiction to alcohol or cannabis, for example), dysthymia requires multiple management:

  • Medication.The psychiatrist will be able to prescribe medication antidepressants of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) family, but the answer is often partial: you often have to try several molecules before finding the one that works for the patient. “Good results are also achieved with vortioxetine, a molecule indicated in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
  • Psychotherapy. The cognitive and behavioral therapies (CBT) can help patients with dysthymia “adds Dr. Masson.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). This treatment involves exposing certain areas of the brain to a magnetic field for about 20 minutes, once or twice a day. ” Painless and non-invasive, this treatment (which takes place in the hospital, on an outpatient basis) helps reduce the symptoms of dysthymia.

Advice from the specialist.If you have symptoms that may suggest dysthymia, do not hesitate to make an appointment with a psychiatrist for a check-up. Because these symptoms can also reflect other pathologies: depression, bipolar disorder, hypothyroidism

Thanks to Dr. Marc Masson, psychiatrist at the clinic of the Château de Garches (92).

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