• Dysthymia

    (Dysthymic Disorder)


    Dysthymia is similar to depression. However, dysthymia symptoms are milder and can last over two years. It is a mild to moderate depression that may go away during periods of normal mood that last up to two months.
    Dysthymia can be treated with medications. Contact your doctor if you think you have this condition.


    The cause of dysthymia is not known. A chemical in the brain called serotonin may play a role. Serotonin helps your brain handle emotions and make judgments. It is also associated with a sense of well-being.
    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
    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
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Fatigue
    • Low self-esteem
    • Difficulty functioning at work and school


    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.


    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.


    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 March 6, 2013.

    Dysthymia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated November 8, 2012. Accessed March 6, 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 March 6, 2013.

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

    Revision Information

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