What is dysthymia?

Dysthymia is another common form of depressive disorder.  This involves having chronic, long-lasting symptoms of depression, that occur more days than not, for at least a period of two years.  The symptoms are not as severe as in major depression, but prevent a person from functioning at top capacity or from feeling good. 

Symptoms of dysthymia include:

  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Lack of sleep or oversleeping
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Fatigue or low energy
One of the most difficult conditions to self-diagnose is dysthymia or low-grade, unremitting depression.

Dysthymia is a clinical disorder that shares many of the symptoms of depression. However, it causes less impairment in daily functioning and runs a chronic course, meaning that in order to warrant a diagnosis of dysthymia the person's symptoms must have lasted for at least two years and seem to be unremitting.

The symptoms of dysthymia can overlap substantially with those of depression but are lower in intensity and last much longer. A major depressive disorder usually improves in four to six months, whereas dysthymia can be lifelong. Approximately 6 percent of the U.S. population will experience dysthymia during the course of their life.
Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life

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Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life

A New Way of Thinking About DepressionWhat does it really mean to be depressed? You know depression as a collection of symptoms—fatigue, listlessness, feelings of worthlessness—and the source of...
Celeste Robb-Nicholson
Internal Medicine
People who are dysthymic (a chronic type of depression) don't look into the abyss, but live in a gray state that may be the only condition they have known. To be diagnosed with dysthymia, one has to have had persistent symptoms of depression for at least two years. In many cases, patients have lived with dysthymia so long that they have come to accept it as part of their personality. Nonetheless, with the right treatment, they may begin to feel better than they ever have.
Dysthymia can be thought of as a milder form of depression. Like clinical depression, dysthymia causes people to struggle with decision-making, concentration, low self-esteem and fatigue. Because the symptoms don't impact your life as drastically as clinical depression, you may have let yourself go years feeling less than optimal, thinking you'd feel better when something in your life has changed. Many medications treat dysthymia effectively.
Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression, characterized by depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, for at least two years. Dysthymia is thought to be related to brain changes that involve serotonin, a chemical or neurotransmitter that aids your brain in coping with emotions. Major life stressors, chronic illness, medications, and relationship or work problems may also increase the chances of dysthymia.
Dysthymia is  one of the two chief forms of clinical depression. It usually has fewer, less serious symptoms than major depression, but lasts longer. In some cases, dysthmia patients may also have a chronic physical illness or another psychiatric disorder. You should discuss your concerns and or any questions with your doctor.

Continue Learning about Chronic Depression (Dysthymia)

Why is dysthymia difficult to diagnose?
Lara Honos-Webb, PhDLara Honos-Webb, PhD
One reason that dysthymia, or low-grade, unremitting depression, may be difficult to recognize i...
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What is dysthymic disorder?
Deborah Serani, PsyDDeborah Serani, PsyD
Dysthymic Disorder is a milder yet more enduring type of major depression. People with dysthymia...
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What Are Antidepressants, and How Do They Work?
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Can Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Be Combined with Antidepressants to Treat Depression?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.