How is dysthymia different from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has episodes of depression that recur every fall and resolve at the end of winter. These depressed feelings seem to be related to the shorter days of winter and a longer secretion of the sleep hormone, melatonin, that normally occurs at night. Dysthymia is a mild depression that usually lasts for 2 years or longer. Dysthymia is commonly part of cyclothymic disorder, the mildest mood disorder on the bipolar spectrum. With cyclothymic disorder, people have symptoms of dysthymia and hypomania, mild mania. There is usually no treatment for cyclothymic disorder. SAD is also unlike bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder. These are chronic, complex mental illnesses that need ongoing self-management with medications, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and more.

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