Dysthymic Disorder

What is it?

Dysthymic disorder is a less severe form of depression. Although it is less extreme, dysthymic disorder causes chronic of long-lasting moodiness. With dysthymic disorder, dark moods invade your everyday life almost constantly for two years or more. Unlike depression which comes and goes, dysthymia is a constant depressed mood spanning for at least two years if not more.

Dysthymic disorder can occur alone or along with other psychiatric or mood disorders. As with depression, dysthymic disorder is more common in women than in men. A family history of mood disorders is not uncommon. This mood disorder can begin anytime from childhood to later in life. Up to 5% of the general population is affected by dysthymic disorder.


  • Genetics
  • Abnormalities in the functioning of brain circuits involve in emotional processing
  • Chronic stress or medical illness
  • Isolation or loneliness
  • Poor coping strategies and problems adapting to life stresses


  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Trouble sleeping or daytime sleepiness
  • Poor appetite or eating too much
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions


A diagnosis of dysthymic disorder in adults requires at least a two-year history of depressed mood for most of the day on most days, along with at least two of the symptoms noted above. Although some symptoms may overlap, you may be less likely to have sleep or weight changes with dysthymic disorder than with depression. You may also tend to withdraw more and have stronger feelings of negativity and inadequacy than with major depression. Dysthymic disorder can be easily misdiagnosed as depression, which is why an individual has to meet the criteria listed above in order to be diagnosed with dysthymia.


Psychotherapy  is generally considered the most effective treatment for dysthymic disorder, and no medicine is formally FDA-approved for its treatment. However, if psychotherapy alone is not adequate, a long-term treatment approach may then include antidepressant medication paired with psychotherapy. Some studies show that antidepressant medications or psychotherapy can be effective for dysthymic disorder, and a combination of both may work best.



  1. I have heard this word thrown around online or in psych textbooks but never really knew what it was. I had no idea that is was a less severe form of depression but also was a constant state. To always feel down on a day to day basis for at least two years has t be really rough. I also feel like two years is a really long time to wait in order to diagnose someone with this disorder.

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