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Dysthymia

Definition

Dysthymia is a mild-to-moderate, but chronic depression 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 due to many overlapping symptoms, which 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.

Revision Information

  • National Institute of Mental Health

    http://www.nimh.nih.gov

  • National Mental Health Association

    http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net

  • Canadian Psychiatric Association

    http://www.cpa-apc.org

  • Mental Health Canada

    http://www.mentalhealthcanada.com

  • Depression. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116638/Major-depressive-disorder-MDD. Updated September 20, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.

  • Depression. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/depression. Accessed October 12, 2015.

  • Dysthymic disorder. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/dysthymic-disorder.html. Updated February 2014. Accessed October 12, 2015.

  • Lim MA, Moncrieff J, Soares BGO. Drugs versus placebo for dysthymia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2005;2:CD001130.