Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital



What is dysthymia?

Dysthymia, also known as dysthymic disorder, is classified as a type of affective disorder (also called mood disorder) that often resembles a less severe, yet more chronic form of major (clinical) depression. However, persons with dysthymia may also experience major depressive episodes at times.

Depression is a mood disorder that involves a child's body, mood, and thoughts. It can affect and disrupt eating, sleeping, or thinking patterns, and is not the same as being unhappy or in a "blue" mood, nor is it a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. Children with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Treatment is often necessary and many times crucial to recovery.

There are three primary types of depression, including:

Who is affected by dysthymia?

Dysthymia affects women twice as often as men. Dysthymic disorder affects approximately 1.5 percent--or 3.3 million American adults age 18 years of age or older--during their lifetime. According to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, about 40 percent of adults with dysthymic disorder also meet criteria for major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder in a given year.

What are the symptoms of dysthymia?

Although less severe, yet more chronic than major depression, the following are the most common symptoms of dysthymia. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

For a diagnosis of dysthymia to be made, an adult must exhibit a depressed mood for at least two years (one year in children and adolescents), accompanied by at least two other depressive symptoms (noted above). The symptoms of dysthymia may resemble other psychiatric conditions. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is dysthymia diagnosed?

Because depression has shown to often co-exist with other medical conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, and other psychiatric disorders, such as substance abuse, or anxiety disorders, seeking early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to recovery. A diagnosis is often made after a careful psychiatric examination and medical history performed by a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.

Treatment for dysthymia

Specific treatment for dysthymia will be determined by your health care provider based on:

Treatment may include either, or a combination, of the following:

Because episodes of dysthymia usually last for longer than five years, long-term treatment of the disorder may be necessary.

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Online Resources of Mental Health Disorders


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