What is It?

The Free Dictionary's medical section defines dysthymia as 'a chronic mood disorder characterized by depressed feeling, loss of interest or pleasure in one's usual activities, and other symptoms typical of depression but tending to be longer in duration and less severe than in major depressive disorder'. Generally, people with dystymia experience little or no happiness in their lives. In order to be diagnosed with dysthymia, patients must experience a persistently depressed mood for at least two years (for children the period of depression should be at least one year), and must dispaly at least two of the following symptoms: insomnia or excessive sleeping, poor appetite or overeating, poor concentation or indecisiveness, low self-esteem or hoplessness.
Dysthymia can occur at any age. However, it often begins much earlier than major depression, in childhood, adolescence, or in early adulthood. Early onset dystymia begins before the age of 21, whereas late onset dystymia occurs after the age of 21. Due to dystymia's early onset and chronic nature, it becomes 'embedded' in a person's personality and is thus percieved as a personality trait. As a result, this mood disorder is often left unnoticed and therefore untreated. Like major depressive disorder, dysthymia affects 3 percent of the population at any given time. Approximately 10 percent of people who suffer from dysthymia will eventually develop major depression. The presence of both mood disorders is often referred to as 'double depression'. Dysthymia tends to occur two to three times more in women than men.Although dysthymia is less severe than major depressive disorder, its affects can sometimes be just as acute.

What Dysthymia Is Like

Jill is now 42 years old and she reports never really feeling happy. She says that there were times when she felt that her life was going better than other times, but she never really remembers getting any joy out of her life. Jill reports that she is always negative about anything new that is suggested to her by others. She never really felt that any man was right for her and, as a result, Jill has been single all of her life. It is hard for her to laugh and Jill says that she’s never had a sense of humor. She sighs often and always has the feeling that she is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. She also has a chronic problem with her weight. Jill is forever on a diet, but her weight has always gone up and down like a yo-yo. She reports the need to sleep a great deal, but at times she has insomnia and walks around feeling tired all day. Jill blames this on her chronic low level of energy. She has always agonized over what for others would be simple decisions. Jill states that she hates her indecisiveness. Other people are always accusing her of spending half her day disagreeing with herself. As far back as junior high school, her guidance counselor told her that she needed to work on her low self-esteem. Jill feels that at her age, it is too late to change and she has accepted that she will always be unhappy and unfulfilled.
Jill is suffering from the milder, but longer lasting form of depression known as dysthymia. Dysthymia is also known as minor depression and is characterized by its long-lasting quality. People often suffer from this condition all of their lives. Dysthymia is typically diagnosed in people who have been experiencing its symptoms almost all day every day for two years with no greater than a two month span without the symptoms. In children and adolescents, the primary symptom is different from that of adults. Adults primarily have sadness, whereas children and adolescents often display irritability and defiance. Children also tend to do worse in school during times of depression. Besides feeling depressed, two of the following symptoms must be present for dysthymia to be diagnosed: poor appetite or overeating, problems sleeping or oversleeping, low energy, low self-esteem, poor concentration, difficulty making decisions, and feelings of hopelessness.
Dysthymia affects two to three women for every man, and is thought to begin in childhood and adolescence. Left untreated, dysthymia will usually continue through a person’s life. People who have dysthymia often have other disorders such as a phobia, anxiety disorder, or a personality disorder.


Dysthymia shares many of the same symptoms of any other major depressive order, but differs in it's course. Some symptoms may include:

-weight lost or weight gain
-Insomnia or over sleeping
-May develop a negative self-image and self-esteem
-May not be able to fully concentrate on certain tasks
-Feelings of hopelessness
-Thoughts of Suicide
-persistent headaches and body pain.



Psychologist researchers have a theory that dysthymia has a variety of causes. People who face high stress situations often are at risk of chronic depression, hence dysthymia. Researchers believe that high stress situations such as loss of a parent, poverty, unemployment or rape, or prolonged physical pain can be a huge factor when it comes to the cause of dysthymia. However there have been reports that some people may develop dysthymia despite having a lot of support in their life.

Dysthymia can also be caused by constant negative thinking and constant feeling of hopelessness, all these things can be argued to be causes for Dsythymic Disorder.


How does It Affect People's Lives

Dysthymia Video: How it Affects People's Lives