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Dysthymia

(Dysthymic Disorder)

Pronounced: Dis-thigh-mee-uh

Definition

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

Causes    TOP

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    TOP

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.

Symptoms    TOP

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

Diagnosis    TOP

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.

Treatment    TOP

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.

Psychotherapy

Therapy can help change unhealthy thought patterns. Psychotherapy may include:

Lifestyle Modifications    TOP

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.

Prevention    TOP

There are no current guidelines to prevent dysthymia.

RESOURCES:

National Institute of Mental Health
https://www.nimh.nih.gov
National Mental Health Association
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Mental Health Association
https://cmha.ca
Canadian Psychiatric Association
http://www.cpa-apc.org

References:

Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated July 19, 2017. Accessed October 4, 2017.
Depression. Mental Health America website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 4, 2017.
Depressive disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
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.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 10/12/2015

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