Low-grade, chronic depression or dysthymia is an insidious disorder that can have a big impact on people's work lives and career choices.
Two common maladaptive responses to untreated dysthymia are to settle for low-level employment early on, or spend excessive time in education or training with no real career plan.
The life of the "eternal student" can often be appealing to the introvert with dysthymia. While studying at university, the studious person with dysthymia can work independently at their own pace and they do not have act to interact much with others.
People with dsythymia can also chose to study material that specifically interests them, and this allows them to compensate for their low level of positive mental arousal by absorbing themselves in a mentally stimulating subject.
In contrast, the chronically depressed graduate who ventures out into the work may find it a big mental challenge to fit in. Many jobs in business require a lot of social skills and the projective of a positive, enthusiastic persona, and this can be very difficult to muster for someone who is low on ambition or motivation and has a pessimistic outlook on life.
In waged employment there is also a lot less freedom to work at your own pace, and the dysthymic adult who is easily stressed and discouraged can find it daunting working in fast-paced jobs with tight deadlines. People with dysthymia also tend to have low levels of mental energy and often function below their cognitive potential. This frequently means that they often end up in relatively repetitive, low-skilled jobs which do not allow them to make much use of their mental ability. From a social perspective this can also result in them becoming social misfits who do not interact with people on a similar intellectual level.
Here, it's not surprising that some people with dysthymia delay entering the work and spend a lot of time studying subjects at university that are mentally stimulating, but which do not lead to positive career outcomes.
Another work trap dsythymics can fall into is to quit school or college prematurely and settle for a steady but un-fulfilling job with limited prospects. Dsythymics who fall into this pattern of behavior often have a low opinion of themselves and others. They often assume that they are too mentally lazy to do more dynamic jobs or are pessimistic about their chances of finding anything better. They may also be quite cynical of ambitious and successful people and assume that individuals who work in high-level white-collar jobs are arrogant, manipulative or egotistical.
Fortunately, dysthymia does not have to have such a negative impact on people's work lives. Once individuals with chronic depression get effective treatment and realize that their outlook on life has been distressed by depression, they are less likely to fall into unproductive work traps that limit their potential and undersamine their quality of life.