What Are the Symptoms of Dysthymia?
Dysthymia (chronic depression) is a less severe form of depression that
lasts for an extended period of time. A teen who has dysthymia
experiences two or more of the following symptoms most of the time for
at least 2 years:
- lack of appetite or overeating
- inability to sleep or sleeping too much
- lack of energy or fatigue
- low self-esteem
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- feelings of hopelessness
People with dysthymia may also have bouts of major depression. Teens
who have either type of depression may also show other warning signs
or symptoms. They may have increased problems at school because of
skipped classes, lack of interest or motivation, or poor concentration and
low mental energy that depression can cause. Some teens drop out
altogether, expecting to fail because of their problems.
For depressed teens who are already feeling self-critical and experiencing
low self-esteem, a failure experience at school may simply be more than
they can bear. They may not realize that depression is causing concentration
problems, and their negative thoughts are probably causing them to
mistakenly conclude that they are stupid.
They also may express feelings of anger or indifference by drinking or
Some teens with depression have other problems, too, that can intensify
their feelings of worthlessness or inner pain. Teens who cut themselves,
those who have extreme feelings of ugliness, and teens who have eating
disorders may have unrecognized depression that needs attention.
Depression is one of the most common of all mental health problems. The
good news is that it's also one of the most treatable conditions. There
are professionals who can help. In fact, about 80% of people who get help
for their depression have a better quality of life - they function better and
enjoy themselves in a way that they weren't able to before.
Treatment for depression can include counseling, medication, or a
combination of both.
Therapy or counseling involves talking with a psychologist, psychiatrist,
or other mental health professional. Psychologists and psychiatrists are
doctors who have years of training in diagnosing and treating depression
and other emotional problems.
Other types of counselors, such as a social worker or school counselor,
may also help a teen who is depressed. In many cases, these therapists
have special training in adolescent therapy, which means that they have
an understanding of what causes depression in teens in particular and
what works best to help them feel better.
Therapy sessions usually involve talking about where the depression
comes from, and just as importantly, focusing on how to feel better.
Different types of therapy may be used, depending on the teen and the
type and severity of the depression.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is particularly effective in treating
depression. The understanding of how thoughts can influence feelings
is the basis for cognitive therapy. Psychologists have termed specific
thinking styles optimism and pessimism. Just as a person can be at risk
genetically for depression, a person's thinking patterns can also have
a profound influence on whether depression develops.
Research psychologists are studying whether kids and teens who are
genetically at risk for depression can protect against it by learning and
practicing certain thinking styles that go along with optimistic beliefs
In some cases, a teen's depression might be helped by one or more
medications that may be prescribed by a psychiatrist, a medical doctor
who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health problems. A
psychiatrist may change either the type of medicine or the dosage until
the medication and the dosage that works best for that person is found.
Because every person's brain is different, what works well for one person
might not be good for another.
Many teens find that the two types of treatment together - therapy and
medication - are the winning combination. Between working with a caring
professional and taking medication, teens find they are able to feel like
their old selves again.
People who are depressed shouldn't wait and hope it will go away on
its own. Friends or others need to step in if someone seems severely
depressed and isn't getting help. Many teens find that opening up to
parents or to other adults they trust can help. An adult can point a teen
in the right direction so the teen can begin to get appropriate help.
People who are extremely depressed and who may be thinking about
hurting themselves or about suicide need help as soon as possible. When
depression is this severe, it is a very real medical emergency, and an
adult must be notified.
Although it's important to be supportive, trying to cheer up a friend or
reasoning with him probably won't work to help depression or suicidal
feelings go away. Depression can be so strong that it outweighs a
person's ability to respond to reason. Even if your friend has asked you
to promise not to tell, this is a situation where telling can save a life.
The most important thing a depressed person can do is to get the
Depression - and the suffering that goes with depression - is real.
Depression doesn't make a person "crazy." Just as things can go
wrong in all other organs of the body, things can go wrong in the
most important organ of all: the brain. Luckily, most teens who get
help for their depression go on to have fulfilling, happy teen and adult
years - and most importantly, to enjoy life and feel better about