Why is Dysthymic Disorder Treatment Often Overlooked? Recognizing When to Find Help

The silent nature of dysthymic disorder means that it often goes overlooked—and, therefore, untreated. But understanding the symptoms can help you recognize when to seek help, which is key to taking the first steps into treatment. When all is said and done, the tools and treatment modalities that you are connected with will help you forge a path forward into a life that’s no longer restricted by your disorder.

The way that dysthymic disorder (also known as high-functioning depression) manifests combined with its lack of overtly debilitating symptoms makes it easy for it to slip under the radar. As someone prone to feelings of low mood, you have likely learned to adapt to them over time. You might have enjoyed a great deal of success in your life, and maybe even taken pride in the obstacles that you have overcome. But if those feelings are persistent, a near-constant presence in the backdrop of your life, know that you don’t have to—nor should you—cope with them alone.

While symptoms of dysthymic disorder are called “low-grade depressive symptoms,” they can still take their toll, given the fact that they can last for years and are so easily overlooked. Many struggle with dysthymic disorder without even realizing it, and even those who do don’t always recognize the option of getting help. But remember this: you are not alone. Help is available, and seeking it out can be the first steps on a journey that will lead you toward living a fuller, healthier life—one in which your depression will no longer play such a major part.

When to Seek Help for Dysthymic Disorder


If you believe you might be struggling with dysthymia, there some common symptoms that you can probably relate to:

  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • Low energy
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased productivity
  • Lack of interest in daily activities
  • Appetite changes

Living with dysthymia can be described as feeling empty and unmotivated, and people struggling with it often can’t shake the feeling that they’re putting on a show for the outside world. They feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained by maintaining the appearance of happiness and the constant burden of living an unsatisfying existence.

Stacey, for instance, struggles with dysthymic disorder but has successfully held a job for the majority of her life, and even excels in volunteer programs outside of her work. But she’s never felt content with the things she’s done with her life. Her depression is something she describes as a lingering feeling that robs her of the potential to do the things she truly wants to, like music. “It’s as if someone is constantly pushing you back into your chair when you try to stand up,” she says. “It keeps pushing you down and telling you that you’ll fail, no matter how well things are actually going.”

The depression itself and the effects it has on your life is just as real as anyone struggling with major depression—the difference is in the muted form that the symptoms manifest in. If you empathize with Stacey’s feelings and any of the symptoms discussed above, it’s important to know that there are many positive treatment modalities that can help you overcome your depression by taking action, one step at a time.

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Treating Dysthymic Disorder


Once you identify your disorder and accept that it’s time to seek help, residential treatment can connect you with the tools and supports that you need to progress on your healing journey. The reason that this kind of long-term treatment is so crucial is that it’s not uncommon for doctors to overlook the severity of living with dysthymic disorder until it has progressed to a point where it is doing obvious damage. Residential treatment is different: the first step of psychological testing is designed to pave the way to a recovery path that not only takes each contributing factor of your depression seriously, it evolves and adapts to your needs as you progress through treatment.

For example, if medication-based treatments aren’t working, or you’re experiencing adverse effects that make you uncomfortable proceeding, new strategies will be put in place to ensure that your treatment continues to be beneficial. In other words, your treatment program will evolve according to your changing needs. This continuous exploration is what will help you (and your professional supports) understand how your depression acts and reacts to different treatments in order to identify the best path forward.

Furthermore, in residential treatment, you will be in the company of other people who are facing similar struggles of their own. When you relate to people on parallel journeys to overcome their own mental health disorders, the end result is the formation of synergistic relationships that helps each person move forward on their own paths while contributing to each others’ personal growth. Learning how to interact and use your own experiences to help others, and vice versa, is a skill that will continue to benefit you and your peers when you reenter the world.

Forging a Path Forward Into Healing


When all is said and done, a comprehensive residential treatment program helps you get your footing through a combination of treatment modalities that reveal the potential for joy in your life. Participating in things like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and interpersonal therapy will definitely provide you with immediate benefit. But the biggest improvements are those that come as time goes on. For the first time in your life, you will understand just how much the constant burden of unhappiness was affecting you as you continue to embrace and discover what’s waiting for you in a life that is rooted in positivity.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles and San Diego-based programs and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to healing.