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"Disthymia" redirects here. The moth genus Disthymia is nowadays considered a junior synonym of Ethmia.


Dysthymic Disorder
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 F34.1
ICD-9 300.4
MeSH D019263

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Dysthymia (Template:Pron-en, from Ancient Greek δυσθυμία, "melancholy") is a chronic mood disorder that falls within the depression spectrum. It is considered a chronic depression, but with less severity than major depressive disorder. This disorder tends to be a chronic, long-lasting illness.[1] The term was first used by James Kocsis during the 1970s.[2]

Dysthymia is a type of low-grade depression. Harvard Health Publications states that "the Greek word dysthymia means 'bad state of mind' or 'ill humor'. As one of the two chief forms of clinical depression, it usually has fewer or less serious symptoms than major depression but lasts longer."[3] Harvard Health Publications also says, "at least three-quarters of patients with dysthymia also have a chronic physical illness or another psychiatric disorder such as one of the anxiety disorders, drug addiction, or alcoholism".[3] The Primary Care Journal says that dysthymia "affects approximately three percent of the population and is associated with significant functional impairment".[citation needed] Harvard Health Publications says: "The rate of depression in the families of people with dysthymia is as high as fifty percent for the early-onset form of the disorder. [...] Most people with dysthymia can't tell for sure when they first became depressed".[3]

Dysthymia is a chronic long-lasting form of depression sharing many characteristic symptoms of major depressive disorder (in the form of the melancholic depression subtype). These symptoms tend to be less severe but do fluctuate in intensity.[4] To be diagnosed, an adult must experience 2 or more of the following symptoms for at least two years:[5]

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low sex drive
  • Irritability [1]

Symptoms exclude "manic, hypomanic or mixed episodes commonly associated with bipolar disorder".[6][7] (If a person experiences these episodes, they may suffer from cyclothymia.)

People with dysthymia have a higher than average chance of developing major depression.[citation needed] Fluctuating symptoms intensity can trigger a full-blown episode of major depression.[citation needed] This situation is sometimes called "double depression"[8] because the intense episode exists with the usual feelings of low mood.

As dysthymia is a chronic disorder, a person may often experience symptoms for many years before it is diagnosed, if diagnosis occurs at all. As a result, he or she tends to believe that depression is a part of their character. This, subsequently, may lead sufferers not to even discuss their symptoms with doctors, family members or friends.

Dysthymia, like major depression, tends to run in families. It is two to three times more common in women than in men[citation needed]. Some sufferers describe being under chronic stress. When treating diagnosed individuals, it is often difficult to tell whether they are under unusually high environmental stress or if the dysthymia causes them to be more psychologically stressed in a standard environment.

Diagnostic criteria

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, characterizes dysthymic disorder.[9] The essential symptom involves the individual feeling depressed for the majority of days and parts of the day for at least two years. Low energy, disturbances in sleep or in appetite, and low self-esteem typically contribute to the clinical picture as well. Sufferers have often experienced dysthymia for many years before it is diagnosed. People around them come to believe that the sufferer is 'just a moody person'. Note the following diagnostic criteria:[1]

  1. During a majority of days for two years or more, the adult patient reports depressed mood or appears depressed to others for most of the day.
  2. When depressed, the patient has two or more of:
    1. decreased or increased appetite
    2. decreased or increased sleep (insomnia or hypersomnia)
    3. Fatigue or low energy
    4. Reduced self-esteem
    5. Decreased concentration or problems making decisions
    6. Feels hopeless or pessimistic
  3. During this two-year period, the above symptoms are never absent longer than two consecutive months.
  4. During the first two years of this syndrome, the patient has not had a major depressive episode.
  5. The patient has not had any manic, hypomanic or mixed episodes.
  6. The patient has never fulfilled criteria for cyclothymic disorder.
  7. The depression does not exist only as part of a chronic psychosis (such as schizophrenia or delusional disorder).
  8. The symptoms are often not directly caused by a medical illness or by substances, including drug abuse, or other medications.
  9. The symptoms may cause significant problems or distress in social, work, academic, or other major areas of life functioning.[9]

People suffering from dysthymia are usually well capable of coping with their everyday lives, usually by following particular routines that provide certainty.

In children and adolescents, mood can be irritable and duration must be at least one year, in contrast to two years needed for diagnosis in adults.



If medication is deemed necessary, the most commonly prescribed anti-depressants for this disorder are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil), and citalopram (Celexa)[citation needed]. SSRIs are easy to take and relatively safe compared with older forms of anti-depressants.[10] Other new anti-depressants include bupropion (Wellbutrin), venlafaxine (Effexor), mirtazapine (Remeron, Avanza in Australia), and duloxetine (Cymbalta).

Sometimes two different anti-depressant medications are prescribed together, or a physician may prescribe a mood stabilizer or anti-anxiety medication in combination with an anti-depressant.

Side effects of medications

Some side effects for SSRIs are "sexual dysfunction, nausea…diarrhea, sleepiness or insomnia, short-term memory loss and tremors". Antidepressant medications can also cause suicidality and aggression in some cases, particularly in children and teens.[11] Some antidepressants are ineffective in some patients. Older antidepressants, such as a tricyclic antidepressant or an MAOI can be tried in such cases. Tricyclic antidepressants are more effective but have worse side effects. Side effects for tricyclic antidepressants are "weight gain, dry mouth, blurry vision, sexual dysfunction, and low blood pressure".[citation needed]


Some evidence suggests the combination of medication and psychotherapy may result in the greatest improvement.[citation needed] The type of psychotherapy that will help depends on a number of factors, including the nature of any stressful events, the availability of family and other social support, and personal preference. Therapy should include education about depression. Support is essential. Cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to examine and help correct faulty, self-critical thought patterns and correct the cognitive distortions that persons with mood disorders commonly experience. Psychodynamic, insight-oriented or interpersonal psychotherapy can help a person sort out conflicts in important relationships or explore the history behind the symptoms.[citation needed]

Friends and family

Anecdotal evidence indicates that the subject's awareness that they form an important part in the lives of the people familiar to him/her both near and far holds great promise in helping the subject to cope. Reminders are to be given daily, and support given freely. Depression is a condition hard to convey in lucid terms, as there does not need to be a determinable vector or cause.[citation needed]

See also

  • Anhedonia, a symptom of dysthymia characterized by a decreased or absent ability to enjoy a sense of pleasure. This may also be a symptom of schizophrenia and/or clinical depression. In addition, this disorder can be caused by excessive use of amphetamines.
  • Blunted affect, a symptom of PTSD, schizophrenia, and ASPD involving decreased or absent emotional response
  • Atypical depression
  • Major depressive disorder


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hersen, M., Turner, S.M. & Beidel DC (Eds). (2007). Adult Psychopathology and Diagnosis (5th ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc
  2. Brody, Jane (1995-01-29). "Help awaits those who live with sadness". The News Journal. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=NeopAAAAIBAJ&sjid=YdMEAAAAIBAJ&dq=dr-james-kocsis&pg=2251%2C6530609.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Dysthymia. Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved on December 12, 2009.
  4. Jefferys, D. Dysthymia. http://www.pamguide.com.au/mood/dysm.php (accessed 2009 May 28).
  5. ICD9 = 300.4(accessed 2009 May 2)
  6. Depressive Conditions: Dysthymia. Satellite Corporation Pty Ltd http://www.depressionperception.com/depression/depressive_conditions/dysthymia.asp (accessed 2009 May 28)
  7. Dysthymic Disorder. Internet Mental Health. http://www.mentalhealth.com/dis/p20-md04.html (accessed 2009 May 28)
  8. Double Depression: Hopelessness Key Component Of Mood Disorder retrieved 2008 July 17
  9. 9.0 9.1 American Psychiatric Association, ed. (June 2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR (Fourth Edition (Text Revision) ed.). American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.. p. 943 pages. ISBN 978-0890420249. http://www.dsmivtr.org/.
  10. National Institute of Mental Health
  11. US Food and Drug Administration: Antidepressant Use in Children, Adolescents, and Adults retrieved 2010 June 3

10 Davidson JR, Abraham K, Connor KM, McLeod MN (February 2003). "Effectiveness of chromium in atypical depression: a placebo-controlled trial". Biol. Psychiatry 53 (3): 261–4. PMID 12559660

External links

Template:Mental and behavioural disorders Template:Bipolar disorder

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