Now known as Persistent Depressive Disorder, Dysthymia is a chronic mild form of depression. Symptoms of dysthymia usually last at least two years  and often last for much longer than that. Dysthymia can actually affect your life more seriously because it lasts for a long time.

With dysthymia, you may lose interest in normal daily activities with no hope, low self-esteem and a lack of productivity. People with dysthymia are often too critical, constantly complaining and unable to have fun.

The symptoms of dysthymia in adults are:

  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Despair
  • Lack of energy
  • Fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficult to focus
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Self-criticism
  • Excessive rage
  • Decreased productivity
  • Avoid social activities
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Lack of appetite
  • Eat excessively
  • Sleep Problems

In children, the symptoms of dysthymia may include:

  • Irritability
  • Poor school performance
  • A pessimistic attitude
  • Lack of social skills

The symptoms of dysthymia typically appear and disappear over a period of years and their intensity may vary over time. It may be characterized by having a melancholy personality.

When dysthymia begins before age 21, it is called early-onset dysthymia. When it starts after that, it is called late onset dysthymia.

It is perfectly normal to feel sad or annoyed at times or to be unhappy with stressful situations in your life. But with dysthymia, these feelings last for years and interfere relationships, work and daily activities. If you have any symptoms of dysthymia, get medical help. If it is not treated effectively, dysthymia commonly progresses in depression.

If you have a primary care doctor, talk to him or her about your symptoms or seek help directly from a psychologist. If you are reluctant to see a mental health professional, reach out to someone else who may be able to help for treatment. This can be a friend or loved one, a teacher, a religious leader or someone else you trust .

What Causes Dysthymia?

The exact cause of dysthymia is not known. Dysthymia can have causes similar to depression. Although the exact cause is not known, certain factors appear to increase the risk of developing or triggering dysthymia.

The exact cause of dysthymia is not known. Dysthymia may have causes similar to depression, including:

  • Biochemistry: People with depression may have physical changes in the brain and this may be also trigger of dysthymia too. Brain chemicals called neurotransmitters which are linked to mood may also play a role in the cause of dysthymia.
  • Genes: Depression seems to be common in people whose family members also have this condition and this also seems to be the case with dysthymia.
  • Environment: Environment may contribute to dysthymia. Environmental causes are situations in your life that are difficult to deal with, such as losing a loved one, financial problems and a high level of stress.

Although the exact cause of dysthymia is not known, certain factors appear to increase the risk of developing or triggering dysthymia, including:

  • Having biological relatives with depression or dysthymia
  • Stressful life events
  • In adults, being a woman

How is Dysthymia Diagnosed?

When doctors suspect that someone has dysthymia, a series of medical and psychological tests are usually done. These can help rule out other problems that can be reason which are causing symptoms, determine a diagnosis and also check for complications. These tests and tests usually include:

Physical examitaniton: This can include measuring patients’s height and weight, checking vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, tempature, auscultation of the heart and lungs and examination of patient’s abdomen.

Lab tests: These may include a complete blood count (CBC), detection of alcohol, drugs and a check for thyroid function.

Psychological evaluation: A doctor or psychologist can talk to you about your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. You will be asked about your symptoms such as when they started, how severe they are, how they affect your daily life and if you have had similar problems in the past. Doctor will discuss with you if you have ideas you might have about suicide or self-harm. You may also be asked to fill out questionnaires about your mood.

Checking other conditions: Several other conditions have symptoms that may resemble symptoms of dysthymia, which includes sad or depressed feeling, loss of interest in daily activitie and sleep problems. Your doctor or mental health provider will help you determine if you have dysthymia or other conditions that may affect your mood, such as:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Substance Abuse Disorder
  • Diagnostic criteria for dysthymia

To be diagnosed with dysthymia, you must meet the symptom criteria detailed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Additional Criteria: In addition to that, you should have at least two of these symptoms and these symptoms cause distress or interfere your ability to function in your daily life:

  • Lack of appetite or overeating
  • Sleep Problems
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Despair
  • Lack of concentration
  • Difficulty in making decisions

Make sure you understand if you have been diagnosed with dysthymia or another condition so that you can learn more about your specific situation and get the right treatment.

How to Treat Dysthymia

There are two main treatments for dysthymia which are medication and psychotherapy. Medications seem to be more effective in treating dysthymia than psychotherapy when used alone. Using a combination of medications and psychotherapy may be more effective.

What treatment is used depends on factors such as:

  • The severity of symptoms
  • Your desire to address emotional or situational issues that affect your life
  • Your personal preferences
  • Your ability to tolerate medications
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • The availability of mental health services in your community
  • Your Health Insurance Coverage

How to Prevent Dysthymia

There is no sure way to prevent dysthymia. Because dysthymia often begins in childhood. But, it is also important to identify children at risk for the disease can be beneficial for early treatment.

Taking measures to control stress, increase your recovery capacity and boost low self-esteem can help prevent the symptoms of dysthymia. Friendship and social support can help you navigate difficult events in times of crisis.

In addition, treatment at the first sign of a problem may help prevent the worsening of dysthymia. Long-term treatment may also help prevent a relapse of dysthymia symptoms.

Additional Tips For Dysthymia

Dysthymia is not usually a disorder that can be treated on its own. But in addition to professional treatment, you can take the following steps:

Comply with your treatment plan: Do not skip therapy sessions or appointments even if you feel bad. Do not skip your medications, even if you feel well. If dysthymia stops, symptoms may return and you may have similar symptoms again.

Learn more about dysthymia: Educate yourself about your condition an get information as much as you can. This will help you to empower and motivate yourself. Encourage family members or friends to learn about dysthymia to help them understand it for more support.

Pay attention warning signs: Work with your doctor or therapist to learn what can trigger the symptoms of dysthymia. Make a plan to know what to do if symptoms get worse. Contact your doctor or therapist, if you notice any change in symptoms or how you feel.

Stay active: Physical activity and exercise can reduce the symptoms of depression-related illnesses. Make plan for walking, jogging, swimming, gardening, taking other activity or exercise that you may enjoy.

Avoid drugs and alcohol: It may seem that alcohol or drugs decrease symptoms related to depression, but in the long run they usually make them worse. Talk to your doctor or therapist if you need help with alcohol or drug abuse.