Dysthymic disorder, also known as persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia, is a chronic form of depression. It starts at an early age and persists through life.
For a diagnosis of dysthymia to be made, someone would have chronic mild to moderate depression symptoms for a period of 2 years or more. Dysthymic disorder affects approximately 1.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older and occurs more often in women than in men. This translates to about 3.3 million American adults.
Dysthymia can sometimes be difficult to spot because people with it have been mildly depressed their whole lives. Both the sufferer and those around them lack the baseline of a better mood to compare the depression to.
Whereas dysthymia is chronic, milder, and usually has an early onset, major depressive disorder is more severe, episodic and may begin later in life. Even if a depression seems mild, it’s important to get help as soon as possible because chronic mild depression can lead to more
Dysthymia tends to run in families. Many people with dysthymia have a long-term medical problem or another mental health disorder, such as anxiety, alcohol abuse, or drug addiction. About half of people with dysthymia will also have an episode of major depression at some point in their lives.
Symptoms of Dysthymia
The main symptom of dysthymia is a low, dark, or sad mood on most days for at least 2 years. In children and adolescents, the mood can be irritable instead of depressed and may last for at least 1 year. In addition, two or more of the following symptoms will be present almost all of the time that the person has dysthymia:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Too little or too much sleep
- Low energy or fatigue
- Low self-esteem
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Poor concentration
Treatment for Dysthymic Disorder
People with dysthymia often benefit from therapy. Therapy is a good place to talk about feelings and thoughts, and most importantly, to learn ways to deal with them. Types of talk therapy include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches depressed people ways of correcting negative thoughts. People can learn to be more aware of their symptoms, learn what seems to make depression worse, and learn problem-solving skills.
- Insight-oriented or psychodynamic therapy can help someone with depression understand the psychological factors that may be behind their depressive behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.
Joining a support group of people who are experiencing problems like yours can also help. Ask your therapist or health care provider for a recommendation.
Because dysthymia is a chronic condition, it can last for many years. Though some people completely recover, others continue to have some symptoms. Although it is not as severe as major depression, dysthymia symptoms can affect a person’s ability to function in their family, and at work. Because of this, it is important to seek ongoing treatment.