Dysthymic Disorder: Unveiling Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Dysthymic disorder (DD), now known as Persistent depressive disorder is a medical condition characterized by a continuous, long-term form of depression. The most shocking part is that it is common among the US general population with 3-6% of the people experiencing dysthymic disorder. In this article, we delve deep into dysthymic disorder, its causes, symptoms, and treatment.

More About Dysthymic Disorder

In this condition, people generally feel sad and empty, experience trouble while getting things done, and lose interest in daily activities. Such persons may also go through low self-esteem and a feeling of failure and hopelessness.

Dysthymic disorder symptoms

Symptoms Of Dysthymic Disorder

The symptoms of DD generally come and go over the years. It is to be noted that the intensity of symptoms can change over time. Also, the symptoms generally don’t go away for more than two months at a time. Major depression episodes may also happen before or during DD. 

The symptoms experienced as part of DD can cause major problems in a person’s life. They are:

  • Sadness, emptiness, or feeling down
  • Tiredness and missing energy
  • Losing interest in daily activities
  • Low self-esteem, self-criticism, or feeling that they are not capable
  • Problems in getting things done properly and on time
  • Easily getting annoyed, impatient, or angry
  • Staying away from social activities
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Guilt feelings and getting worried about the past
  • Hopelessness
  • Sleep problems
  • Problems in focusing clearly and trouble experienced in decision-making

Children suffering from DD may exhibit symptoms such as depressed mood and easily getting annoyed, impatient, or angry.

Read More: How To Help A Teen With Depression? 9 Pieces Of Advice!

Causes Of Dysthymic Disorder

The exact cause of DD remains unknown. However, as in the case of major depression, there may be more than one cause such as:

1. Biological differences

Those diagnosed with DD may go through physical changes in their brains. Though it is yet to be ascertained how these changes affect the disorder, they may eventually help find out the causes.

2. Inherited traits

It has been observed that DD is common among those whose blood relatives have suffered from the same disorder in the past.

3. Brain chemistry

Neurotransmitters, in simple terms, means naturally occurring brain chemicals. Studies show that neurotransmitters play a major role in depression and its treatment.

4. Events in life

As in the case of depression, traumatic events in life such as the death of a loved one, financial problems, or high stress levels can cause DD among some people.   

Treatment For Dysthymic Disorder

There are two main treatments for DD, They are:

  • Medicines
  • Talk therapy

1. Medicines

Certain types of antidepressants are generally used in the treatment of DD. Some of them are Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

However, before taking an antidepressant, speak to your doctor about its possible side effects. Also, in the case of pregnant or lactating mothers, some antidepressants may pose a higher risk to their unborn baby or nursing child. Thus, it’s quite essential to speak to the doctor before taking antidepressants.

2. Talk therapy

Also known as psychotherapy, talk therapy is a type of treatment where a patient speaks to a mental health provider about his/her thoughts, behavior, feelings, relationships, and associated issues.

In the case of DD, various types of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy may be effective. The patient and therapist can discuss the objectives of therapy and related issues, such as the duration of the treatment.

Talk therapy can help the patient:

  • Adjust to a problematic situation or other ongoing difficulty
  • Identify issues that are causing the depression and change behaviors that aggravate it.
  • Find out negative beliefs and behaviors and overcome them with healthy, positive ones.
  • Come up with better ways to deal with problems and solve them.
  • Develop better relationships and experiences, and engage in positive interactions with others.
  • Being back a sense of satisfaction and control in his/her life helps relieve symptoms of depression such as hopelessness and anger.
  • Learning to set realistic goals in life


Hope the article throws light into the lesser-known aspects of Dysthymic disorder. Apart from the points discussed above, it is also quite important that the patient eats a healthy diet, is physically active, and gets adequate sleep.

About the Author

Nicole Carter is a dedicated and passionate nutritionist, committed to helping individuals achieve their health and wellness goals through the power of proper nutrition. With a Bachelor's degree in Nutritional Science and years of practical experience.

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