How Dysthymic Disorder and Substance Abuse Problems Go Hand-in-Hand
More often than not, it’s easy to tell when someone’s struggling with a severe depression problem. Feelings of despair, loss of energy and changes in appearance act as the telltale signs.
Dysthymic disorder, a less severe form of depression, may not be so easy to spot. According to Harvard Health Publications, people affected by dysthymic disorder, or dysthymia, experience ongoing feelings of depression, or go in and out of depression states on an ongoing basis.
Considering how distressing this type of life can be, the risk of seeking out some form of escape runs high and substance abuse offers a most convenient outlet. Being able to identify dysthymic disorder in your life can save you much energy and heartache as well as help prevent a substance abuse problem from making a bad situation that much worse.
For information on substance abuse treatment options, call our toll-free helpline at .
Dysthymic Disorder Features
Signs of dysthymic disorder can develop as early as childhood. Since dysthymia doesn’t actually inhibit a person’s ability to carry out the affairs of everyday living, it’s not uncommon for the condition to stay with a person on into adulthood. Whether it develops in childhood or adulthood, affected individuals may come to view the condition as a part of their overall personality or character, according to the U. S. National Library of Medicine.
Symptoms of dysthymia closely resemble those of major depression, but are less intense. Signs to watch for include:
- Loss of motivation to do anything
- Disengaging from friends and family
- Changes in appetite
- Noticeable weight loss or weight gain
- Problems concentrating
- Decline in hygiene and/or grooming habits
The Dysthymia – Substance Abuse Connection
Potential for Substance Abuse
As a general rule, any form of mental dysfunction increases the risk of developing a substance abuse problem. With dysthymic disorder, the depression component leaves a person highly susceptible to engaging in substance abuse behaviors.
According to QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, women struggling with depression are four times more likely to engage in alcohol abuse than women unaffected by depression. Likewise, men who experience ongoing depression symptoms are three times more likely to abuse alcohol.
Substance Abuse as a Coping Mechanism
When under duress, the brain naturally seeks out ways to relieve discomfort. Considering the warped perspective that characterizes depression, the brain’s ability to seek out nondestructive outlets is already compromised by depression’s effects.
Under these conditions, the near-immediate effects brought on by alcohol and/or drug abuse can be highly appealing considering the convenience and overall easy access to these substances. While substance abuse can provide temporary relief, these effects come at a high price.
Over time, the effects of drug and alcohol abuse only work to worsen the brain’s chemical makeup, which ultimately makes symptoms of dysthymic disorder worse. With long-term substance abuse, the likelihood of developing a full-blown addiction on top of dysthymia is all but guaranteed.
If you suspect you or someone you know struggles with dysthymic disorder and don’t know where to turn, we can help. Call our helpline at to speak with one of our phone counselors.