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I have been diagnosed with dysthymia...!

Since the age of 18 (I am now 42) I have suffered with chronic depression and anxiety, severe mood swings, hyper sensitivity, reduced self esteem and confidence , general pessimistic outlook and ongoing difficulties with my personal, social and occupational life. Have been on and off anti-depressants since 18,but they have never helped much.

Recently I have been in a darker then usual place and have been thinking about suicide on a daily basis. Life has become such a struggle emotionally and I have been battling like never before. I would break down in tears for no reason..the other day at the checkout in Tesco! It is a relief to go to sleep at night and a lot of the time I think it would such a relief not to wake up and go through it all again. But I have a son and though he is an adult now, I don't think I could do that to him.

A few weeks back I went to the GP and insisted on being referred to the Mental Health Team. I have just been assessed by a Psychiatrist who has diagnosed dysthymia. I have never heard of this condition before so looked it up and this is me to a T. I had a difficult childhood with a hard and critical father, parents who fought like cat and dog . I was never shown any affection as a child.

Can anyone go me any insight into dysthymia and how they have managed to overcome it, if at all? Also, if psychotherapy will help as this is what the Psychiatrist has recommended. Also, not sure whether to go back on the anti-depressants as they have never really helped. The Psychiatrist says I should speak to my GP about the medication but this has never got me far in the past.

I just want to feel like a 'normal' member of society and find joy in everyday life so that everything I do does not feel so hopeless and such a constant struggle.

16 Replies


Like you I had a difficult childhood (see my blogs if you want to know more) and have also worked as a psychotherapist and, yes, psychotherapy can help and I think it's great that your psychiatrist is enlightened enough to suggest that. You may always find some things difficult, as I do, but you can be helped to come to terms with the worse feelings and to move beyond feeling suicidal as I have been helped. So I would take the psychiatrist's advice.

As for medication, personally I would not take meds if you are able to cope without, as although they are useful at times for some kinds of depression they tend to mask the feelingsthat will motivate you in therapy and also tend to become addictive and often lead to heavier doses over time in order for them to continue to be effective. If you feel you really can't do without them then by all means take them. An alternative way when you feel suicidal is to phone the Samaritans or similar as they are available all the time and non addictive! Good luck and keep in touch on the website, I know I find it helpful.



Thanks Sue. Yes, the medication is indeed a sticking plaster. It initially takes the edge off those feelings but as you say just masks them in the long run. This condition has blighted my life. It is because of where I find myself. So many times I've been told to 'get a grip' or 'stop running away and hiding from the world'. This is why this site is so helpful as there are like-minded people who can identify.

Thank-you so much for your comments.



Yes I agree, it's never helpful to be told to get a grip or similar, it just adds guilt to the already difficult feelings.

By the way, dysthymia is not a term I've heard used all that much but it's great that the psychiatrist recognised the link between past experiences and your low mood. That's relatively unusual in my experience, often a chronic low mood is diagnosed even by experienced psychiatrists as depression that can only be treated by drugs whereas of course that's rubbish, we have experiences that affect our mood ofrom early life and understanding those experiences generally brings some relief. As a result of quite a lot of therapy I generally feel much happier in the world, and only really feel low when I'm by myself and not feeling happily occupied by something - it's as if my sense of self, my identity, is that of a low person who is lonely and quite isolated, and unfortuantely that's true at the moment because we live miles from my friends and in an area I don't identify with.

You don't say, but do you have a partner or family? I'm lucky in that although I've been married 3 times (!) I do now have a caring husband. He doesn't have a need to spend much time with me, so I find life quite lonely living with him, but he is very generous in his feelings and also materially and is happy for me to do anything that will make me happy so I feel like a child with an understanding parent figure now. I also have two gorgeous children, now both adults and unfortunately both living outside the UK, one in Mexico City and the other in Beijing but both successful and happy and normal so I must have done something right as a mother which does bring comfort when I'm feeling at my lowest.

About the breaking down in tears in Tesco, I actually think that's really healthy in that you allowed yourself to feel what was there and didn't continue to put on a brave face. Most people feel compassion when someone is upset, it's only when we push people away in anger that they don't always understand. Now I find that if I feel tearful the tears tend to come, although I am gradually learning to feel them and show them but not actually cry, but that's taken time and you will manage that too in time.

Keep in touch, Suex


Hi Sue,

I had never heard of dysthymia either but I have all the symptoms:

a strong tendency to be critical of oneself and others, pessimism, guilt, brooding, and gloominess

emotionally unstable, impulsive, and hypersensitive to loss

low energy or fatigue; low self-esteem; poor concentration; indecisiveness; and hopelessness.

anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) and psychomotor symptoms (chiefly lethargy or agitation).

social withdrawal, guilt, and irritability

timidity, excessive worry, helplessness, and social withdrawal.

easily demoralized and recover slowly from any stress or misfortune.

I am wondering whether this condition was something I was born with (hereditary as my father has similar symptoms and so too does my sister (she is on antidepressants) although they have never been diagnosed). I had a difficult childhood with an overbearing father who constantly used to belittle and criticise me. Never shown any affection as a child and my parents were always at each others throats.

I hope therapy can help in some way but I wonder whether (as the psychiatrist put it) this is just how I am - my personality. If that's the case then how will therapy help as we cannot really change our personalities.

Sue, you are lucky that you are not alone and that you have your husband around, even though he does not spend a lot of time with you. I have driven all the partners I've ever had away :-) Can you imagine living with someone with all of the above traits! I have never really allowed anyone to get emotionally close to me, even though deep inside this is all that I want. All the men I've ever been with have repulsed me after a while, so much so that after the last breakup at the beginning of the year I began to question my own sexuality. I have always tended to form more of a connection with female friends than male partners. This has probably got something to do with the relationship I had with my father which hopefully the therapy will address.


Hi, although the medical model used by some psychiatrists can sometimes be that we inherit all mental illness, most health professionals including psychiatrists take the view that we inherit a disposition, perhaps to be sensitive or over-reactive. We then have a whole lot of experiences, not just one or two isolated ones, which reinforce that inbuilt tendency and make it more extreme. Then we have some extreme triggers such as a very high level of stress or similar that results in the symptoms which are then labelled as a convenient way of enabling health professionals to understand what is wrong and to decide what treatments may help. Mental illness is not like physical illness, the labels are for convenience rather than thinking of them as a disease that we have wrong with us. No one can show you the mental illness and then show you hwo it responds to treatment because of course our emotions and behaviours are much more complex than that.

You say your personality cannot be changed but of course that isn't true! Our personalities alter as a result of experience, it may be that the basic tendencies you have can't be altered, for example you may be very sensitive and are unlikely to become insensitive as a result of therapy, but what you can learn is wa of behaving that enable you to feel happier and to interact with peopl in healthy ways that reinforce the happier feelings rather than the unhappy ones. If you have driven partners away then therapy could help you to understand how you did that and why you did it, what you were really wanting from them that you didn't get and how you might behave differently in future relationships so you stand more chance of getting what you wanted in the first place! I've been married 3 times, the first time I married because I needed someone (anyone) to love me, the second time because I was in love and thought that was the same as loving which it isn't, and the third time after a very long period of therapy I married my husband. He's far from a perfect choice for me but he does give me emotional and material security and acceptance, also likes to see me happy and encourages me to do things that I enjoy. He's not the person I would ideally want, because since being with him I have grown more and now want someone who wants to spend time being with me, who enjoys my company, but I am only able to know that because I have the security that my husband provides me with. In some ways he's like a parent, a secure based from which I can grow. He has end stage kidney failure and expects to die before me, if he does then I will look for a partner who wants my company!!

You say the men you have been with have repulsed you after a while and that the link is to your father, so yes the therapy should be able to help you to understand and share the feelings that cause you to become repulsed. It is hard to love a man when we have hated our fathers as I hated mine and perhaps you also hated yours, but of course despite not wanting to love them we will have also loved them, all children do love their parents no matter what they do....I can't remember loving my father and perhaps never will as I'm 63 now, but I do realise that I must have loved him when I was a child.

Take care and do keep writing on the website, it's useful for us all to understand what has happened in our pasts and how those things affect our adult lives!



The term Dysthymia is merely a concept or a theory which was started by Dr Robert Spitzer ( an editor of The American Psychiatric Associations book "The Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders". The word was chosen as a replacement for the term "Depressive Personality. Like all psychiatric disorders there is no blood or laboritory test which proves 100% that it actually exists. It is not a disease like cancer or diabetes because these have been discovered as definite diseases . Although you may have all these feelings of depression it could also be that these feelings are natural reactions to the things which have happened in your life. My advice to you would be to talk through everything you are feeling with a good psychotherapist who will treat you as an individual and not try to label , catagorise and drug you for life. I do not agree with people being labelled mentally ill and stigmatised by psychiatrists . You sound like a very nice , sensitive person who has had a tough time. Ask your psychiatrist for a test which proves you have dysthymia. There are none, . You can overcome your depression with the right help. Please if you can read the book "Beyond Prozac" by doctor Terry Lynch. It will really help you. Good Luck


Thank you for your comments Optimistic9. If only there was a conclusive test that could be taken for mental illness.

Thanks also for recommending the book by Terry Lynch..I am just about to order it online!


Hi , I am so glad you are ordering this book. It really helped me such a lot . The author is trying to make changes in the mental health system. He still works as a GP . It totally changed my perception of psychiatry and made me feel empowered. It must be awful for you when your feeling down but please be good to yourself and pamper yourself a bit, you deserve it !. Im sending you a big hug and I will pray for you x


Thank you so much for your kind comments...I needed that hug!...you have cheered me up x


Im so glad, ! My mum recently died and I too have been feeling down but at the same time I realise that your life is so precious and you are only here once so dont waste it. Also whoever you are , everyone of us is a unique individual, just like our fingerprints, and having feelings and emotions is totally natural, not something to be medicalised and turned into a label for drug companies to make money. You will love the book and it will make you feel that there are people who care and understand. LIke I said, please be nice to yourself . You ARE normal. I cried at the till in ASda a few weeks ago when the girl asked how was my mum?. Im a sensitive person and Im glad because I actually care about people. Dont worry about everything. This christmas Im going to watch all the old christmas movies and eat chocolates, maybe have a little cry too .! All the best to you, Please let me know how you are getting on x


I am so so sorry to hear about your mum. Christmas can be an especially difficult time for people that have lost loved ones and those that that don't have family or friends. Though I don't have many close friends or family in this country, I am lucky enough to have my son with me so it will just be the 2 of us this year. .

I agree with you on the medication: I have been taking antidepressants on and off for 24 years and they have done nothing for me. In fact made me a whole lot worse most of the time. I have now weaned myself off them and am going to try different (natural) ways to make me feel better about myself and the world around me. I am sure meds have their place for certain people but I think these days it is so easy for overworked GPs to just write a prescription and dish them out like smarties.

I will be joining you this Christmas in front of the TV with my box of chocolates (dark chocolate mint ones, of course) :-)

Thank you so much for all your kind comments and for recommending the book which I am looking forward to reading x


You spoil yourself rotten, and your son and have a lovely time. I also have kids and dont know what Id do without them. x



I've just read your reply to my comments and like you had a critical and overbearing father, so like you have many of the symptoms of dysthymia, but then so have most people who have had critical parenting coupled with insufficient supports to compensate. Whether you can work through them isn't easy to answer, psychotherapy can really help but isn't easy to find especially on the NHS as with the cuts all the longer term treatments are cut right back or virtually non-existent now - I know because I'm qualified but there are no jobs. You can obtain therapy privately but it isn't cheap, I pay around £40 an hour each week which is a lot to pay. However you can get a lot from relatively short term therapies sometimes, Cognitive Analytic Therapy can be really good for seeing the links between childhood experiences and adult thoughts and behaviours, but probably the best therapy is making good friendships in which you can be honest and also tolerate the imperfections of other people who may sometimes be insensitive of course, like we all are!

Like you, for me Christmas will be the TV, lots of treats to eat, some good wine and other booze for when I really want to escape and then there's always bed with a hottie, the radio and a good book! I haven't read Beyond Prozac but there are lots of good self-help books on Amazon - I used to like The Road Less Travelled by Peck, but there are lots of others and you can get them all quite cheaply secondhand on Amazon.

We can also all come onto the website and have our own little party, sharing what we're doing?!



I've just realised that I did read Beyond Prozac years ago and in fact came off Prozac as a result, although the depression did return but not as badly.xx


Please try blood cupping also known as hijama in arabic. It took me out from dysthymia in matters of weeks. I have suffered from dysthymia for 9 years. Finally i found something which works. Please do reasearch on this and go to experienced practitioner who have knowledge and experience regarding this. If you have any queries feel free to msg me. I would love to help you out.


I`m 57 just diagnosed dysthymia and diverticulosis both debilitating on meds for both which initially helped but now I`m back to square one. I wish I could paint a better picture no follow up help and left to my own devices. I honestly feel hopeless. Dysthymia started with a traumatic event when I stabbed while sleeping in bed suffering two punctured lungs with internal bleeding woke up in intensive care and life has been a downward spiral, I tend to avoid conflict and remain in the house driving the family crazy with my mood swings, it`s certainly not a life choice. I just want to be a normal person


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