Chronic Depression and Codependency

By Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Dysthymia, or chronic depression, is a common symptom of codependency; however, many codependents aren’t aware that they’re depressed. Because the symptoms are mild, most people with chronic depression wait 10 years before seeking treatment.

Dysthymia doesn’t usually impair daily functioning, but it can make life feel empty and joyless. Sufferers have a diminished capacity to experience pleasure and may withdraw from stressful or challenging activities. Their emotions are dulled, though they may feel sad or melancholy or be irritable and anger easily. Unlike with major depression, they’re not incapacitated, yet they may have difficulty trying new things, socializing, and advancing in their career. Some may believe that their lack of drive and negative mood is part of their personality, rather than that they have an illness. Like codependency, dysthymia causes changes in thinking, feelings, behavior, and physical well-being.

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