Please note: I am not a medical person of any kind. I am not an expert on dysthymic disorder. What I’m writing here is a combination of what I’ve learned from my counselor and my own research. It is strictly for my readers to understand what I’m talking about when I mention dysthymic disorder, not to be a research paper on the subject. If I have any details wrong, feel free to contact me. If you’re looking for certified advice about dysthymic disorder, please seek a professional.
When I first started going to my counselor, she diagnosed me with dysthymic disorder. She said she thought I might have a little bit of PTSD too, and later discovered that I actually have a lot of PTSD. But the dysthymic disorder was my first diagnosis and continues to plague me.
Simply put, dysthymic disorder is an underlying depression. Whereas full-blown depression inhibits activities in daily life, dysthymic disorder is constantly lurking below the surface, felt and sometimes coloring perspective, but does not cause the person to struggle with it to stop doing activities. It just accompanies them through those activities.
There is an exception to that. If dysthymic disorder goes untreated, it can flare to the surface and behave like full-blown depression, causing disinterest in anything, and all the other usual symptoms of depression. This happened to me in my late high school and early college years. Not constantly, but regularly.
Because I knew the symptoms for depression, I thought that I actually had full-blown depression. It wasn’t until I started going to my counselor that I found out that since my depression is constantly there even when it’s not making me feel like I can’t do anything, it is not regular depression, but dysthymic disorder. It still flares up sometimes, but since I’m being treated now (not by medications, but by counseling) it usually just lurks beneath the surface. My hope is to evict it from there too.