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Dysthymia is a condition in which a person suffers from unceasing, low-grade depression. Between three and five percent of the United States population suffer from the disorder. Typically, a person diagnosed with dysthymia has experienced feelings of depression for at least two years. Sometimes, the depression has been prevalent for twenty or thirty years before a person consults a doctor. Symptoms of dysthymia include binge eating, insomnia, withdrawal, fatigue, lack of self-esteem, and extreme pessimism.
In the 1980's, intensive research was performed to determine if dysthymia was a mental or physical condition. After much debate, it was determined to be both because a mix of hormones, serotonin levels, weakened immune systems, lower brain wave functions, and sleep pattern abnormalities contribute to the condition. For this reason, most doctors believe psychotherapy and medications are both necessary to an accurate treatment of the disorder.
When suffering from dysthymia, a person's fear-response system kicks into action for no apparent reason. This causes cortisol to pump through the veins and adrenaline to rush from the glands and spread throughout the body. As a result, the mind becomes alert and prepared for the attack despite the lack of threat. Studies show that these conditions can make a body more prone to diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Dysthymia also makes a person more willing to smoke and drink heavily.
Once a person has been diagnosed with dysthymia, anti-depressants are typically prescribed. Statistics show 62% of patients prescribed anti-depressants feel "normal" again within a short period of time, typically within two months. In addition to medical treatment, a person suffering from dysthymia should see a psychiatrist who specializes in the condition on a regular basis.
To help overcome dysthymia, many patients find it helpful to get plenty of fresh air and sunlight. A twenty minute walk outside every day can be very beneficial. A proper diet is another worthwhile plan of action for those coping with dysthymia. Diets rich in foods such as chocolate, hearty breads, and potatoes can help with feelings of depression because they aid in the natural production of serotonin.