In a classic A.A. Milne moment, Eeyore discovers that his tail is missing.
“That accounts for a Good Deal,” said Eeyore gloomily. “It Explains Everything. No Wonder.” “You must have left it somewhere,” said Winnie-the-Pooh.
“Somebody must have taken it,” said Eeyore. “How Like Them,” he added, after a long silence.
We all personally know our own Eeyores. They’re long-suffering folks who can’t find a shred of joy in any aspect of their lives.
Not only do they wallow in their own emotional dumps, but they suck others into the quagmire, too. Loved ones try in vain to boost their Eeyore’s spirits. “Look on the bright side,” they encourage. “Don’t worry. Let it go,” they repeat. Yet those cheery words fall on deaf donkey ears. And they grow increasingly exhausted by their futile attempts.
In today’s world, we’d diagnose Eeyore with dysthymic disorder. That’s a chronic, low-grade depression that lasts longer than two years in adults, one year in children and teens. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, dysthymia is characterized by such symptoms as loss of appetite or eating too much, sleeping too much or not enough, low energy or fatigue, low self-esteem, poor concentration or difficulty making decisions, and feelings of hopelessness.
Although dysthymia lacks the intensity and severity of major depressive disorder, it can wreak havoc on sufferers’ lives. Loss of interest, hopelessness and lack of productivity become a way of life. People with dysthymia are seen as complainers, knit-pickers, killjoys and lumps on logs. They’re a psychological drain on their families. They have few friends.
The causes of dysthymia include a complex combination of factors. Genetics play a role. We all inherit certain aspects of our personalities. A tendency toward gloominess can be one of them. Changes in neurotransmitters may be linked to alternations in mood. And environmental stressors, such as loss of a job or uncontrolled stress, can sap the fun out of any existence.
Eeyore may have clung tenaciously to his pessimism. But that needn’t be the fate for all dysthymia sufferers. Awareness, appropriate treatment and perseverance can help your tale have a very different ending.
GETTING HELP FOR YOUR DYSTHYMIA
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.