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Dysthymia is a mild form of depression disorder. It is a chronic form of low mood that can last for a week, a month or up to two years in some cases. Let’s see more about dysthymia from the following paragraphs.

What is Dysthymia?

There are different types of depressive conditions. These depressive disorders an have symptoms that range from mild to very severe. One such form is called as dysthymia disorder that is a kind of milder form of major depression. When the symptoms last for at least than two years, it is diagnosed as dysthymia (One year in case of children and teenagers). In many cases, the affected person cannot pinpoint the exact reason of why they became depressed in the first place.

This mood disorder is also called as neurotic depression or chronic depression. The sufferer experiences the symptoms for many years before the condition is finally diagnosed. Thus, many start believing they are sad individuals, instead of realizing they are suffering from depression.

Dysthymia interferes with the daily life of the sufferer. The person loses interest in life and things they once enjoyed. They start having a low self-esteem and feel they are not capable of having fun or beign happy. The sufferer cannot remember the last time they were happy or excited or enjoyed life.


There are many characteristic symptoms of dysthymia. When the symptoms appear before the age of 21 years, they are considered as early-onset dysthymia. When these symptoms come after 21 years of age, the condition is described a late-onset dysthymia. These symptoms in adults include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low energy or drive
  • Low capacity to enjoy the daily life pleasures
  • Stress
  • Avoiding opportunities fearing failure
  • Self-criticism
  • Feeling incapable of doing anything right
  • Irritability
  • Avoiding social gatherings and activities
  • Inability to sleep

Children and teenagers may show the following symptoms:

  • Behavioral problems
  • Poor social skills
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Developmental or learning disabilities
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Pessimisim

The symptoms tend to come and go over a period of 2 years. However, their intensity each time they appear differs. However, the symptoms never disappear for more than 2 months at a time. The sufferer is tagged as a gloomy person by people they know.


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The exact cause for dysthymia is still under the scanner. It is suspected to be related to the changes in serotonin, a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain. Serotonin is involved with emotions and changes in it leads to depression. At times, major events in life like chronic illness, death of a loved one, medications, relationship problems, abuse of some kind, work problems, etc. can also trigger dysthymia.

At times, having first-degree relative with major depression can increase one’s changes of developing dysthymia.


The doctor will conduct  physical examination of the sufferer along with a complete blood test and carry out psychological evaluation. In order to be diagnosed with dysthymia, one has to meed the symptom criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) by the American Psychiatric Association. These criteria include:

  • Having low self-esteem
  • Hopelessness
  • roblems with decision making
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleep problems
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Pessimism

In case of children and teenagers, they should suffer from depression most of the day for at least a year and in case of adults for about 2 years.


Dysthymia is a serious condition that can be treated if diagnosed early and treatment is followed routinely. The doctor may prescribe medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), etc.

One may also have to undergo psychotherapy sessions to overcome their lack of assertiveness, negativity, inability to function in a social setup, etc.

The person suffering from dysthymia can overcome the disorder if they are determined to rise over their problem. Medications can help one feel better and live a more emotionally fulfilling life. Speak to your loved ones and visit a doctor for more help. You can overcome dysthymia and live a normal, brightened life.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 05, 2015