Feeling Low and Getting Worse — Dysthymia, or Depression?

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Reader’s Question

I don’t know what to do. I’ve been feeling consistently low for quite a few months now. I have spoken a couple of times to a counselor about this and have also tried to talk to my mum. But it seems that nothing is working.

I’m not sure where this hollow feeling I possess stems from, but it’s been building up for a time, and it’s only getting worse. I feel I have to distract myself a lot, and I struggle with eating, sleeping, and sometimes just the basic things.

I had to stop sessions with the counselor because I finished college. I feel that my family cannot understand, least of all my mum, who immediately takes pity on me or blame on herself for the way I’ve been feeling. I’ve talked to a close friend, and she suggested seeing a doctor, but my mum warned me about taking anti-depressants and seems rather against it. She treats me as if I’m deliberately upsetting her, and expects me to get over it soon. I don’t know why I so desperately want her support; I often feel she brushes me aside and focuses more closely on my younger sister. I’m so uncertain about my life, my future, everything.

Psychologist’s Reply

What you report suggests you could be dealing with some degree of depression (possibly even a lower-level and more chronic type commonly called dysthymia). And if that’s true, neither your mother, nor you, nor anything else is to blame for it. Depression is the result of biochemical imbalances in the brain, and it can interfere with normal sleeping and eating patterns as well as normal energy and interest levels.

Levels of training and degrees of expertise vary among mental health professionals, and not all are equally trained to diagnose or treat various conditions. So, it’s important to find the right provider. Seeing a doctor (or psychologist or psychiatrist) is probably a good idea. While it’s true that there are some risks associated with the use of the various antidepressant medications, an adequately trained professional can help you assess both the risks and benefits of the many therapies that are available, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, which involves no drugs and has proven to be quite effective. So, take heart in knowing that help is available, and seek out a qualified professional to help you reclaim a more normal life.

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