• Dysthymia

    (Dysthymic Disorder)


    Dysthymia is a mild-to-moderate, but chronic depression that lasts for 2 years or longer.


    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. Other factors that may increase your chance of 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 because symptoms overlap. These 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


    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

    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 current guidelines to prevent dysthymia.


    National Institute of Mental Health https://www.nimh.nih.gov

    National Mental Health Association http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net


    Canadian Mental Health Association https://cmha.ca

    Canadian Psychiatric Association http://www.cpa-apc.org


    Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116638/Major-depressive-disorder-MDD. Updated July 19, 2017. Accessed October 4, 2017.

    Depression. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/depression. Accessed October 4, 2017.

    Depressive disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/mood-disorders/depressive-disorders. Updated August 2016. Accessed October 4, 2017.

    Dysthymic disorder. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/dysthymic-disorder. Updated August 2017. Accessed October 4, 2017.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
    • Review Date: 09/2017
    • Update Date: 10/12/2015
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