Dysthymia: From My Point of View

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danfieldsforblogI was recently interviewed for an excellent Wall Street Journal article about dysthymia (mild, chronic depression). In the online version of the article, I talk about how my anger at minor irritations and hypersensitivity to criticism threatened my marriage. I also discuss how psychotherapy and antidepressant medication have helped “take the edge off things” and raised my threshold for annoyances. (To read more about my story, see my Families for Depression Awareness profile.)

The WSJ article, by award-wining journalist Melinda Beck, points out that many people who have had dysthymia since childhood don’t realize they are depressed; they think it’s just their personality. “Yet there's growing evidence that even mild depression that is unrelenting can have severe consequences on work, family and social life,” writes Beck. A recent analysis of government surveys found that people who fit the criteria for dysthymia were more likely to have physical and emotional problems and to be on Medicaid or Social Security disability than those with acute depression. They were also less likely to work full time.

I encourage other people with depression (chronic or acute) to speak out about their experience. Although I think it's natural to feel a bit squeamish about "airing one's dirty laundry," speaking out helps to reduce the stigma surrounding depression and thus gives more people permission to seek out help. I'm grateful to Melinda Beck for increasing awareness of dysthymia, which too often goes undiagnosed and untreated.

--Dan Fields, medical editor and Commonwealth Corps member of the Grief Support Services program of Samaritans, Inc.

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