Sadness or dysthymia: how to identify chronic sadness

The sadness It is an emotion that is part of our natural repertoire. Like all emotions, it fulfills a necessary function for well-being. It can have multiple manifestations but it is always temporary, it leaves us when we no longer need it giving way to other positive emotions. When sadness, although not excessive, is a constant, without apparent cause, we can face a case of dysthymia.

Sadness plays an important role

The sadness appears as a consequence of a negative situation and causes a feeling of tiredness, apathy, reluctance, lack of hope, and sometimes even despair. Although it is a negative type emotion, it plays an important role. The sadness helps us to reflect, rest and psychological readjustment, necessary to overcome the precipitating situation.


Sadness is not something serious, so we should worry too much, as it will happen over time. However, when this feeling of sadness persists for years, we can face dysthymia.

Dysthymia, a mild type of depression

Dysthymia is a mood disorder. It is a mild, but chronic type of depression. Although it is not a sadness as deep and intense as depression can become more serious because its chronic nature makes its effects are permanent. That is, the dysthymia lasts longer than a depression and therefore its consequences are permanent.

Symptoms of dysthymia or chronic sadness


To know when we are dealing with a case of dysthymia, it is very important to know its symptoms. The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders includes the following criteria for diagnosis:

1. Presence of a chronically depressed mood most of the day of most days.
2. It remains constant for at least two years.
3. It appears without there having been any major depressive episode.
4. Along with the appearance of two or more of these symptoms:

- Loss or increase of appetite.
- Insomnia or hypersomnia.
- Lack of energy or fatigue.
- Low self-esteem.
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
- Feelings of hopelessness.


Why does dysthymia appear?

Dysthymia is a disorder of mood, its causes are not yet very clear. The sadness comes triggered by a precipitating situation, but instead the tendency to episodes of sadness and mild depression, does not have a precipitating cause.

Although the causes of dysthymia have not yet been clarified, we can resort to the concurrence of several causes to answer the question about the appearance of dysthymia. It is associated, on one hand with a genetic predisposition, to a type of temperament that is caused by the alteration of a neurotransmitter known as serotonin that gives rise to a depressive mood. On the other hand it may be due to a learned way of thinking, to a tendency to negative thoughts. Research shows that there is a type of cognitive vulnerability associated with depressive states, those people with a tendency to negative thoughts also tend to depressive mood disorders.

How can we differentiate sadness from dysthymia

Sadness and dysthymia have similar manifestations, that is why, in many cases, dysthymia goes unnoticed and is not diagnosed, nor is it treated properly. Dysthymia is a mood disorder with serious consequences and therefore requires treatment, it is essential to pay attention to the symptoms in order to recognize when we are facing dysthymia. Some guidelines for recognizing dysthymia and differentiating it from sadness are the following:

1. Sadness has a triggering cause, a complicated situation, conflict, frustration, etc ... instead Dysthymia appears for no apparent reason.

2. The sadness has a certain duration, depending on the person and the situation ends with time. But nevertheless, dysthymia is permanent, is present for several years, and even all of life.

3. Dysthymia is not more intense than sadness, it is not a type of serious depression or intense uneasiness and despair, but if its duration is longer.

4.   Sadness begins and ends, but it has no intervals. Dysthymia, on the other hand, presents periods of improvement (on the same day, for several days, etc.) that unfortunately, remit and lead again to apathy, reluctance, etc.

5. Dysthymia often interferes with the functioning of the person, it affects your work, academic performance, your relationships, interactions, etc.

Tips to deal with dysthymia or chronic sadness

Dysthymia is a type of permanent or chronic sadness. It is a mood disorder and therefore requires proper treatment.

- If you have any doubt about having the disorder, go to a specialist that can make a diagnosis.

- Regarding the treatment, certain psychotherapies have shown their effectiveness in the improvement of symptoms: cognitive, behavioral, psychoanalysis. They can be accompanied by pharmacological treatment.

- Change the lifestyle, the thoughts are small changes that can mean small improvements in the disorder, for example: moderate exercise, healthy eating, carry a sleep routine, carry a level of activity that can allow us to feel useful, avoid stress, take care of relationships and maintain social life.

Guidelines for recognizing dysthymia, chronic sadness

1. Sensations similar to sadness: Discouragement, disillusionment, apathy, * you hardly want to leave the house or do everyday things.
2. Alterations of the dream. Insomnia or hypersomnia may occur.
3. Alterations of the feeding: you eat less or you eat more.
4. Scarce social relations.
5. Interferences in work and / or academic life.
6. Low self-esteem.
7. Difficulty concentrating.

8. Inability to make decisions.
9. State of mind that lasts over time, with intervals of improvement.
10. It is not a serious depression.
11. It has no triggering cause.

Celia Rodríguez Ruiz. Clinical health psychologist. Specialist in pedagogy and child and youth psychology. Director of Educa and Learn. Author of the collection Stimulate Reading and Writing Processes.

Video: How to Cure Chronic Depression


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