Dysthymia is an illness that many men and women have but may not know it. It’s a persistent but low-level experience of depression, usually accompanied by irritability and an inability to experience joy. It includes symptoms of depression (feeling down, guilt, loss of interest in activities, social withdrawal, poor concentration, poor memory, indecision, suicidal thoughts, fatigue, and/or loss of motivation) but in a milder form. This form of depression can last longer and can range from months to years, even though they are fully functional in life.
Two experiences that can very easily accompany dysthymia or depression are insomnia and addiction. Insomnia is the inability to sleep. When you go to lie down, perhaps you can’t relax enough to fall asleep. Or it might be that your thoughts about the day or even thoughts related to depression are keeping you awake. One of the symptoms of depression and dysthymia is sleep disturbance, meaning that a person will either sleep a lot (hypersomnia) or they will have trouble sleeping (insomnia). One recent study found a strong relationship between sleep patterns and psychological health. Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center tracked the sleep habits of over 4,000 people for one year. The results of the study indicated that those who were depressed were four times as likely to lose more sleep.
Along with insomnia, those who feel depressed might turn to substances as a means to feel better. They might drink or use a drug that will give them feelings of euphoria, such as cocaine or crystal meth. Substance use and depression are very common among adults. It’s hard to face life when you’re feeling guilty, suicidal, confused, or lost. With these feelings, it’s common for men and women to turn to something that can easily make them feel better. Of course, there are many costs to substance use, including addiction.
Interestingly, researchers have found that depression treatment can both facilitate the treatment of insomnia as well as support addiction treatment. Depression treatment might include therapy – meeting one on one with a mental health professional to discuss healthy ways to cope with depression as well as issues that might be contributing to depression. Depression treatment might also include medication to help more immediately relieve one of symptoms. Together, this can help change the way one is feeling which can support their sleep habits. And it can also prevent a person from having an urge to drink or use substances to feel better.
Dysthymia is a tricky illness because it might be so mild that you might not notice that you have it until you learn more about it. It’s very common for people to go through life believing that what they are feeling is the way it is for everyone. Yet, that’s not true. Many people are thoroughly happy and do not have any problems sleeping nor do they feel the need to turn to alcohol or drugs. And this can be possible for anyone.
Depression treatment might be the answer if you feel you’re struggling with insomnia, addiction, and/or a low mood. Keep in mind, however, that addiction will need to be treated in addition to any depression or dysthymia you might have. If you’re struggling in your life, contact a mental health professional today.
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