Dysthymia: Hidden Signs of Underlying Depression


Do you have a roommate or friend or family member who is extremely easy to upset? It is possible he or she may just be overstressed because of a full calendar, but they may also be suffering from minor depression, also known as dysthymia.

Working as a mental health clinician, I have seen numerous individuals fighting depression. Some people appear depressed with their disheveled demeanor and slumped, unconfident posture, but others hide it well. They cover it up, but they are in a lot of pain. Many people live with or struggle with depression and do not let anyone know.
Angie is twenty-six years old. She works as a lawyer. Her father died three years ago but you would never know this fact.

Minor Depression And A Short Fuse

She always smiles and says the right thing at work, but her roommate and her mother have noticed that she is still irritable. She seems to have a short fuse. Minor depression is not something to be ashamed of. It is especially tricky when something challenging has recently occurred in an individual’s life. If he or she is continually stuffing it down and not talking to anyone, they can start to become snappy or easily upset. This is a healthy and treatable reaction. She may try things like exercise or yoga or vacation, which may give temporary relief, and then she may be frustrated when shortly after this she gets moody again around these same people with whom she regularly interacts.

Therapy Helps Minor Depression

Seeing a therapist is a good idea. We think you must have a huge problem to see a therapist sometimes; this is not true. Minor depression can be easy to treat, and life can become much smoother for this individual. When Angie signed up for monthly counseling, her job became much more manageable, and her relationships improved. She spent a good portion of her counseling sessions reliving good memories with her dad that she did not take the time for in her daily life. She appreciated having an extra place to process these complicated life issues she had faced. Since then she has stopped snapping at her mother; they are taking a vacation together next month. Her roommate does not feel like moving out anymore. Their living environment is pleasant.

People are ashamed to seek help for depression sometimes and avoid counseling if the depression is not heavy. Treating dysthymia, minor depression right away is best if it is affecting your life.  The typical treatment is something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; the therapist leads the client in the process of discovering their irrational thoughts that have developed regarding themselves.  Core self-beliefs and automatic thoughts can fuel depression.  If someone starts thinking negatively, they can get caught in a negative thought loop, so this type of therapy can give them the mental strength to climb back out.  For example, Angie, the twenty-six-year-old lawyer, may have talked with her therapist about what she was thinking when she started snapping at her roommate.

Changing Minor Depressive Thoughts

They may have used a “Socratic dialogue” to help her think more clearly and rationally about the situation and arrive at her own conclusions.  This is a way of training her brain to fight against the depression and eventually removing any negative thought patterns that could have started even as a child from self-beliefs she formed.  For example, it is surprising that a self-belief learned at ten such as “I am too short” or “I am not a good listener” or “I cannot make friends” can affect an adult.

It may not be something the adult actively thinks about, but it is still a belief that influences how they think and the power they have to fight off negative automatic thoughts.  For Angie, if her current adult interactions are making her sensitive about the fact that she is just barely five feet tall, or that her friends never feel she hears what they say, and especially if this is fueling her belittling herself and feeling depressed and irritable, her therapist may encourage her to talk about her childhood when that thought formed and resolve it once and for all to alleviate her depression.

Mental health issues do not have to be debilitating or life-threatening to be worth the time and money it takes to fix them.  Angie will see results in her work and her personal life that are worth the payment of six to twelve therapy sessions.  Taking time to care for yourself is a good thing, especially if you feel you are struggling with minor depression or dysthymia.  The top ten topics discussed in therapy are family relationships, friendships, work, insecurities, anger, childhood experiences, life direction, depression, life satisfaction, and personal views.

Having someone outside your life who can listen and help you process your life happenings and explore any big decisions cannot hurt.  Life coaches have become popular because they are a way of achieving some of this.  Although they do not typically work with you if you have clinical depression or more serious emotional disorders or past trauma they can be a great resource if you need support in making a big decision or dealing with stress.  I enjoy working as a life coach getting to know all kinds of different people from different walks of life and asking questions that make them think hard and sort through their current lives and set and reach their goals.

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