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If you can’t remember the last time you felt happy, you’re not alone. An estimated 3 out of 100 Americans suffer from a treatable form of ongoing depression called dysthymia (pronounced dis-THIM-ee-uh). Like other forms of depression, dysthymia afflicts more women than men. In addition to sadness, other symptoms include:
Left untreated, dysthymia lasts a minimum of two years. Though it’s milder than major depression, this condition can still make it hard to function at home and work.
No one knows for sure what causes dysthymia. However, a woman faces a higher risk if she:
Dysthymia can be difficult to pinpoint, because your depressed mood may lift for as long as two months at a time. Your family members and friends also may remain unaware that you’re depressed.
If you suspect you have dysthymia, talk to your doctor. A medical exam can rule out other reasons for lingering fatigue and depression, such as a thyroid problem. Dysthymia is usually treated with antidepressants, which you may need to take for several years to avoid a relapse. Talk therapy can help, too. One form of this type of therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which you learn healthier ways of thinking and behaving.