Dysthymia, aka Dysthymic Disorder, is generally considered to be a longer-lasting but less severe form of depression. Generally lasting for several years, dysthymia often begins at an earlier age and features a more persistent impairment of daily function. For a diagnosis of dysthymic disorder to be made, the individual must have a moderately depressed mood for at least two years (if an adult, only one year if a child or adolescent) which is accompanied by more than one of these depressive symptoms:
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
- Low energy or fatigue
- Low self esteem
- Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness
Additionally, during the same time period, the person’s symptoms are not absent for longer than 2 months at a time. He or she has not had a Major Depressive Episode. (Note: If a person with dysthymia faces a deeper depression, he or she can be said to be suffering from double depression.) The patient also will not have had any Manic, Hypomanic of Mixed Episodes nor has he/she shown any evidence of psychosis such as found in Schizophrenia. The symptoms can not be deemed attributable to prescription medications or any other medical condition.
If all of those criteria can be satisfied, then the person can be considered dysthymic. At that point, a treatment plan is considered.
In general, antidepressants and psychotherapy can be effective in treating dysthymia. SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed medications for dysthymia. These, of course, include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Celexa. Both cognitive behavorial therapy (CBT), or talk therapy, and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), can provide comfort and support to individuals who struggle with this condition. Which forms of therapy an individual chooses depends upon his/her personality, insurance coverage and a variety of other factors.
Support from family and friends is essential for those struggling with dysthymia (and any other kind of depression). Dysthymia is treatable, but it does take time, patience and flexibility.