Dysthymia (A complete guide)


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Page last updated: 10/11/2022


Dysthymia is described as mild, chronic depression, but is less extreme and has fewer symptoms than major depression.

The individuals who experience the effects of dysthymia can also experience bouts of major depression, which is sometimes called “double depression.”

In modern diagnostic classification systems, dysthymia and chronic depression are currently both described as persistent depressive disorders.

What Is Dysthymia?

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD), formerly known as dysthymia, is a relatively new diagnosis that encompasses chronic depression.

The most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) solidified dysthymia and chronic major depressive disorder under the umbrella of persistent depressive disorder, which incorporates any chronic depression ranging from mild to severe.

These diagnostic changes were made because there were no specific differentiations between chronic major depressive disorder and what was recently referred to in the DSM-IV as the dysthymic disorders. 

The word dysthymia originates from the Greek roots dys, signifying “ill” or “bad,” and thyme, signifying “mind” or “emotions.”

The terms dysthymia and dysthymic disorder refer to a mild, chronic state of depression. 

Signs and Symptoms of Dysthymia

The symptoms of persistent depressive disorder are fundamentally the same as the major depressive disorder.

But these symptoms are chronic, which implies that individuals have these depressive symptoms most days in the span of two years for adults and one year for children and adolescents. 

The symptoms include:

  • Misery or discouraged state of mind the vast majority of the day or consistently 
  • Loss of satisfaction in things that were once pleasurable 
  • A significant change in weight (increase or loss of over 5% of weight in a month) or appetite 
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day
  • Being physically restless in a manner that is recognizable by others 
  • Weariness or consistent loss of vitality 
  • Feelings of hopelessness or uselessness or excessive guilt almost every day 
  • Problems with concentration or making every day decisions
  • Repeated thoughts of death or suicide, a suicide plan, or suicide attempts
  • Loss of intrigue and joy in day by day activities
Dysthymia (A complete guide)

The following are some symptoms of major depression: 

  • Low mood
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Increases or decreases in appetite
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Lack of energy or fatigue
  • Decreased productivity
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Sleep difficulties

While individuals with major depressive disorder may have days or periods where they feel good, those with dysthymia have depressive symptoms almost all the time.

PDD may have a beginning stage, with symptoms first showing up during childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood.

In children, the primary symptoms are angry temperament and irritability. 

Double Depression

An individual that meets the criteria for persistent depressive disorder can also encounter significant depressive episodes.

At the point when the significant depressive episode has finished, the individual may experience chronic depression.

This co-event of PDD and major depressive disorder is referred to as double depression. 

Causes Of Dysthymia

Like different types of depression, the specific reason for PDD is not known, yet there are various factors that are assumed to play a role, including: 

  • Genetics: Research proposes that having close relatives with a history of  depression doubles an individual’s risk of developing depression.  
  • Brain chemistry: The synapses in the brain can play a role in the onset of depression. Some natural variables, for example, prolonged stress, can dysregulate these brain chemicals. Antidepressants work by modifying these neurotransmitters to improve state of mood. 
  • Environmental factors: Situational variables, for example, stress, misfortune, anguish, major life changes, and injury can also cause depression. 

Most of the time, these components work in combination which leads to the risk of developing depression.

How Is Dysthymia Diagnosed? 

A specialist will make the diagnosis based on the individual’s symptoms. In the case of dysthymia, these symptoms will have gone on for a more extended timeframe and be less serious than in patients with major depression.. 

With dysthymia, your primary care physician will need to ensure that the symptoms are not a result of a physical condition, for example, hypothyroidism. 

If you are depressed and have had depressive symptoms for over about fourteen days, see your doctor or a psychiatrist.

Your provider will make a careful clinical assessment, paying particular attention to your and your family’s  psychiatric history. 

There is no blood or lab test that can be utilized to diagnose dysthymia. 

There was and still is no research center test accessible for diagnosing dysthymia or any other form of depression.

In the event that you are experiencing Symptoms of depression, your primary care physician will assess your Symptoms and clinical history.

You will answer questions about the nature, seriousness, and duration of your symptoms. 

Your primary care physician may perform a physical and blood work to rule out any clinical problem that may be causing your symptoms.

To get a diagnosis of PDD, your PCP must establish that your symptoms are not due to drug or alcohol use, an ailment, or another psychological disorder. 

Your primary care physician will verify whether your symptoms meet the  diagnostic criteria laid out in the DSM-5 which includes duration requirements. 

Ultimately, the symptoms must include significant depression or impairment of normal functioning.

PDD is sometimes hard to diagnose because the symptoms can be very mild.

People may start to accept that their symptoms as just a piece of their character or “who they are” as opposed to a treatable condition. 

As indicated by the American Psychiatric Association, somewhere in the range of 0.5 and 1.5% of U.S. adults experience persistent depressive disorder every year.

A recent report revealed that the lifetime prevalence for PDD with major depressive episodes was 15.2%. 

Is Dysthymia Common in the U.S.? 

As per the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 1.5% American adults are influenced by dysthymia.

While not as impairing as major depression, dysthymia can prevent you from feeling your best and working ideally.

Dysthymia can start in adolescence or in adulthood and is found to be more common in women.

How Is Dysthymia Treated? 

Dysthymia is a treatable illness.

Similarly as with any chronic illness, an early diagnosis and clinical treatment may lessen the intensity and duration of symptoms and furthermore diminish the probability of recurring episodes of major depression. 

To treat dysthymia, doctors may utilize psychotherapy (talk therapy), medications, for example, antidepressants, or a combination of these therapies.

Usually, dysthymia can be treated by a primary care physician. 

What Is Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy (or talk therapy) is utilized in dysthymia and other other mood disorders to help the individual build up coping abilities for managing regular day to day existence and getting rid of negative convictions about oneself.

Psychotherapy can also help with medication adherence and promote a positive lifestyle, as well as as help the patient and family come to terms with the mood disorder.

You may benefit from one-on-one therapy, family therapy, group therapy, or a support group with other people who live with chronic depression. 

How Do Antidepressants Help Ease Dysthymia? 

There are numerous classes of antidepressants accessible to treat dysthymia.

Your primary care physician will survey your physical and mental health, including any other medical conditions, and afterward, choose the medication that is best with the least side effects.

Antidepressants may take a little while to work completely. They should be taken six to nine months after an episode of chronic depression.

Furthermore, it can take a while for your body to adapt to coming off the medication, so consult with your doctor if you would like to discontinue the treatment. 

Antidepressants sometimes cause undesirable side effects.

That is the reason you need to work intimately with your primary care physician to find the antidepressant that gives you the most advantage with the least reactions. 

What Else Can I Do to Feel Better? 

Getting a precise diagnosis and successful treatment plan is a critical component in feeling better with chronic depression.

Furthermore, get some information about the advantages of a healthy lifestyle, for example, eating a well-balanced diet, getting standard exercise, staying away from alcohol and smoking, and spending time with loved ones i.e. for solid social support and care.

These positive actions can be significant in improving mood and quality of life. 

Can Dysthymia Worsen?

It is normal for an individual with dysthymia to experience an episode of major depression simultaneously.

This is called double depression. That is the reason why it is so essential to seek out an early and exact medical diagnosis.

Your primary care physician will then be able to put together the best treatment for you or refer you to a specialist. 


There are various things that individuals can do to help adapt to persistent depression.

Since this kind of depression does not have a cure, implementing lifestyle changes and self-care in combination with your clinical medications can be useful. 

A few things that you can do that will supplement treatment and medicine: 

  • Get standard exercise a few times every week. 
  • Set up a predictable rest plan. 
  • Stay away from alcohol and other addictive substances. 
  • Create a solid healthy eating regimen. 
  • Make a day by day schedule that helps structure your day. 
  • Practice deep breathing or meditation
  • Get out of the house and make plans with friends and family. 

It can be challenging to do a significant number of these things when you are feeling depressed..

While it might be a struggle, remember that you don’t have to do everything superbly.

Indeed, small changes can make a difference in your state of mind and outlook.

For instance, you may begin by making small goals and expand on these over the long run. 

A Word From Us

Indeed, even mild symptoms of depression can disrupt your ability to function and enjoy life, especially when these symptoms are enduring.

Luckily, there are medications available for persistent depressive disorders that can have a significant effect on your wellbeing and prosperity.

Converse with your primary care physician about how you are feeling to explore the treatment options that are right for you.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

People also ask(FAQ):

  • Can dysthymia be cured?
  • How common is dysthymia?
  • What does dysthymic disorder mean?
  • Is dysthymia considered a disability?
  • Can you have dysthymia and bipolar?
  • Is depression a permanent disability?
  • Is depression considered a psychiatric disorder?
  • How do you deal with dysthymia?
  • Is major depressive disorder genetic?

  • Try these books on Amazon for more information about dysthymia:
  1. Dysthymia or dysthymic depression. Dysthymic disorder or dysthymia treatment, symptoms, causes, signs, myths and help tips all covered. Including dysthymia in teenagers and children. Kindle Edition
  1. Dealing with Dysthymia: Recognising and Recovering from Chronic, Low-Grade Depression Kindle Edition
  1. The Dysthymia Cure: How to Overcome Dysthymic Disorder and Live the Happy Life You Deserve (Dysthymia, Dysthymia Depression, Dysthymic Disorder, Dysthymic Depression, Chronic Depression) Kindle Edition

What we recommend for Depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.


  1. National Institute of Mental Health: “What Is Depression?” “Dysthymic Disorder Among Adults.”
  2. Parker G, Malhi GS. Persistent Depression: Should Such a DSM-5 Diagnostic Category Persist? The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2019 Mar;64(3):177-9.
  3. Vandeleur CL, Fassassi S, Castelao E, et al. Prevalence and correlates of DSM-5 major depressive and related disorders in the community. Psychiatry Res. 2017;250:50-58. DOI:10.1016/j.psychres.2017.01.060
  4. American Academy of Family Physicians: “Dysthymic Disorder: When Depression Lingers.”
  5. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: 2013.
  6. Monroe SM, Slavich GM, Gotlib IH. Life stress and family history for depression: the moderating role of past depressive episodes. J Psychiatr Res. 2014;49:90-95. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.11.005
  7. Fieve, R. Bipolar II, Rodale, 2006.
  8. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV).