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by McCoy K

Definition

Dysthymia is a mild-to-moderate, but chronic depression that lasts for 2 years or longer.

Causes

The cause of dysthymia is not known. A chemical in the brain called serotonin may play a role.

Brainstem—Location of Serotonin Production
Brainstem and brain
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Dysthymia is more common in women than in men. Other factors that may increase your chance of dysthymia include:

  • Family history of major depression or dysthymia
  • Chronic mental or physical illness
  • Chronic stress
  • Environmental factors

People who have dysthymia may also experience episodes of major depression.

Symptoms

Dysthymia may be difficult to differentiate from depression because symptoms overlap. These may include:

  • Feelings of sadness and/or hopelessness
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty functioning at work and school

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical and psychological exam will be given.

Your doctor may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation. Tests may be done to look for medical causes like thyroid problems or anemia .

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may include one or more of the following:

Antidepressant Medications

Antidepressant medications may help to manage symptoms. Antidepressants take a few weeks to begin working. Take them as directed by your doctor.

Psychotherapy

Therapy can help change unhealthy thought patterns. Psychotherapy may include:

Lifestyle Modifications

In addition to medications and therapy, the following lifestyle modifications may help you feel better:

  • Participate in enjoyable activities.
  • Eat a healthful diet .
  • Avoid illegal drugs and alcohol.
  • Begin a safe exercise program with the advice of your doctor.
  • Have a regular sleep schedule.

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent dysthymia.

RESOURCES

National Institute of Mental Health  https://www.nimh.nih.gov 

National Mental Health Association  http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Mental Health Association  https://cmha.ca 

Canadian Psychiatric Association  http://www.cpa-apc.org 

References

Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116638/Major-depressive-disorder-MDD  . Updated July 19, 2017. Accessed October 4, 2017.

Depression. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/depression. Accessed October 4, 2017.

Depressive disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/mood-disorders/depressive-disorders. Updated August 2016. Accessed October 4, 2017.

Dysthymic disorder. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/dysthymic-disorder. Updated August 2017. Accessed October 4, 2017.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2018
  • Update Date: 10/12/2015