(Dysthymic Disorder)
  • Definition

    Dysthymia a mild-to-moderate depression that may go away during periods of normal mood that last up to two months.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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

    Your doctor will ask 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.
    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 guidelines for preventing dysthymia.

    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

    Mood Disorder Association of Ontario http://www.mooddisorders.on.ca


    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 17, 2013.

    Dysthymia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated March 11, 2013. Accessed September 17, 2013.

    Dysthymic disorder. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/dysthymic-disorder.html. Updated January 2010. Accessed September 17, 2013.

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

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