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Dysthymia – Not Your Average Depression

When you think of depression, you might imagine someone feeling like they have hit rock-bottom. The whole world is against them and life is awful. That profile tends to describe someone who is experiencing a major depressive episode.

But what about that person in your family that never seems to be that low, but never seems to be all that happy either? Just generally miserable and pessimistic about everything. They aren’t really at that rock bottom, and they’ve been that way a long time. If this sounds familiar, you might be looking at dysthymia, a milder but more chronic form of depression.

Dysthymia – Stuck In The Middle

Dysthymia can often get swept under the rug, mostly because it just doesn’t look that bad. So life can go on, they may not be suicidal, and now everyone’s gotten used to that person being that way? Is it just always going to be like that? Can it ever get better?  Is it enough of a big deal to do something about it?

Yes, dysthymia is real depression. Just because it is more mild and doesn’t seem as bad doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a strong impact on a person’s life. Speaking from experience, your mind eventually adapts to the way you think after something changes. When depression (mild or severe) becomes the new normal, it can be very difficult to come out of it without some help.

Life Is Full Of Gray

When you are depressed, you eventually lose track or even forget how you used to think and see the world before.  Life just becomes sort of gray and milk-toast.  Almost enough to not think it warrants much attention.  But when you look long term, what kind of life is it to lose all color and interest?  Dysthymia can eventually grind down a person’s tolerance for constant misery, leading to a very real risk for suicide.

So if this description is ringing a bell or raising a red flag for you, consider how you can help. Talk to them about your concerns, be available to them as support, and even mention getting some help when the moment seems right. Nobody needs to live with depression, and you don’t have to let it win.

Creative Commons License photo credit: tombream07

Dysthymia – Not Your Average Depression

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2010). Dysthymia – Not Your Average Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Apr 2010
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