Dysthymia is a mild-to-moderate depression that may go away during periods of normal mood that last up to two months.
The cause of dysthymia is not known. A chemical in the brain called serotonin may play a role.
Brainstem—Location of Serotonin Production
Dysthymia is more common in women than in men. Factors that may increase your chance of developing 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.
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
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty functioning at work and school
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.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may include one or more of the following:
Antidepressant medications may help to manage symptoms. Antidepressants take a few weeks to begin working. Take them as directed by your doctor.
Therapy can help change unhealthy thought patterns. Psychotherapy may include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Family therapy
- Interpersonal therapy
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.
There are no guidelines for preventing dysthymia.
National Institute of Mental Health
National Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Mental Health Canada
Depression: What you need to know. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/information/get-info/depression/depression-what-you-need-to-know. Accessed September 23, 2014.
Dysthymia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 11, 2013. Accessed September 23, 2014.
Dysthymic disorder. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/dysthymic-disorder.html. Updated February 2014. Accessed September 23, 2014.
Lim MA, Moncrieff J, Soares BGO. Drugs versus placebo for dysthymia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2005;2:CD001130.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.