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Dysthymic Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Coping Tips

What Is Dysthymic Disorder?

Dysthymic Disorder, which is also called as dysthymia is a form of depression which usually has duration of up to two years, although some people may have it for several years. This form of depression is usually mild with periods of moderate depression. Majority of people who may have a Dysthymic Disorder may not even know when they started to feel depressed. Some of the symptoms of Dysthymic Disorder may include extremely poor appetite or overeating, sometimes extremely poor sleep with other times oversleeping, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. People suffering from Dysthymic Disorder may have periods where they will be absolutely normal and then periods where they will feel extremely low in mood and thus their own family members or friends may not know that the person so close to them is actually feeling depressed. Dysthymic Disorder may make it difficult for an individual to work productively at work which may lead to poor reviews. Dysthymic Disorder as a medical condition is quite common these days. This disorder can begin in childhood or adulthood and studies suggest that it is more common in women than men.

Dysthymic Disorder

What Causes Dysthymic Disorder?

The exact cause of Dysthymic Disorder is unknown, but some studies suggest that it may be related to some changes in brain involving a chemical known as serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical which is involved with handling the emotional part of a person. Dysthymic Disorder may also be caused due to some other medical problems or due to undue stress.

What Are Some Facts About Dysthymic Disorder?

Below mentioned are some facts about Dysthymic Disorder:

  • Dysthymic Disorder is a medical condition affecting the mood of a person where the person may be normal one day and may feel extremely low in mood the next day.
  • It is a form of mild depression which stays for a prolonged period of time.
  • The symptoms of Dysthymic Disorder are less severe than the symptoms of a major Depressive Disorder.
  • Dysthymic Disorder usually begins in the teenage years and can last for a prolonged period of time going on for at times even decades.
  • Dysthymic Disorder is more seen in women than in men
  • Dysthymic Disorder was also in the past known by the name of depressive neurosis, neurotic depression, and depressive personality disorder.

What Are The Symptoms Of Dysthymic Disorder?

Some of the symptoms of Dysthymic Disorder are:

  • Depressed mood for prolonged periods of time
  • Extremely low self esteem
  • Persistent fatigue and lethargy
  • Sleep impairment
  • Appetite changes
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Feelings of hopelessness.

Severity of symptoms differs from individual to individual. Some people who are quite tough with their mindset can go on with their lives with minimal discomfort whereas some people may find it extremely tough to function due to the symptoms.

How Is Dysthymic Disorder Diagnosed?

If you are having periods of depression and you think you may have a Dysthymic Disorder then the first thing to do is to talk openly to the physician. The physician may ask a few questions related to what sort of symptoms you are experiencing and whether you have Dysthymic Disorder or a major depressive disorder. The physician may also ask about the sleeping patterns, whether you have feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, whether you feel tired all the time, and if you have problems with focusing on a task. The physician will also try to rule out medical conditions like thyroid problems causing depression or certain medications that you may be taking that may be causing depression.

How Is Dysthymic Disorder Treated?

The frontline treatment for Dysthymic Disorder is use of antidepressants. This class of medication is quite helpful in treating depression and making an individual feel relaxed. It may take approximately two to three weeks before full effect of the medication is seen. It is extremely vital to take the medication as prescribed by the physician. The medication course if helpful may last for several years until the depression is completely gone. It is recommended not to stop the medication abruptly as it may cause you to get depressed again along with other withdrawal symptoms. It is always best to speak to the physician and letting him do the weaning process of a medication.

Additionally, it is advisable to visit a counselor apart from taking antidepressants as it will make them feel more relaxed and make them feel more upbeat about their condition. Most physicians feel that a combination of medication and counseling is the best way to manage depression in its various forms.

Coping Tips For Dysthymic Disorder?

  • The first thing towards getting better is to talk with the physician openly telling the physician all the concerns and symptoms you are having so that he or she can come up with the best possible plan for the betterment of your situation.
  • The next thing to do is to be active and do things which make you feel good and satisfied like going for a movie or a ball game, playing with children, visit to a park for fresh air, music also plays a big role in making a person feel relaxed. Try and visit a friend and talk about old times and the good things that you were involved with.
  • Try and eat a regular healthy meal even if you do not feel like eating. You may not feel like eating first but as the antidepressants start kicking in the appetite will automatically improve.
  • It is extremely vital to stay away from alcohol and drugs as they will make you feel more depressed even if initially they make take your depression away.
  • Engage in regular exercises like running or brisk walking. It not only helps you stay fit but also plays a big role in improving the overall mood. You can start exercising for a short time to begin with and then increase gradually to keep the Dysthymic Disorder at bay.


  1. Mayo Clinic: “Dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder)”: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/persistent-depressive-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20350929
  2. National Institute of Mental Health: “Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymic Disorder)”: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml#part_145398
  3. Cleveland Clinic: “Dysthymia (Persistent Depressive Disorder)”: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9292-dysthymia-persistent-depressive-disorder
  4. American Psychiatric Association: “What Is Persistent Depressive Disorder?”: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 11, 2023

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