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Dysthymic Disorders: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

November 20, 2022

5 min read

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Author : United We Care
Clinically approved by : Dr.Vasudha
Dysthymic Disorders: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Dysthymic disorders, also known as Persistent Depressive Disorders, are mild to moderate forms of depression that do not go away. A person with a dysthymic disorder experiences a low, sad, and dark mood along with other symptoms of depression.

The symptoms linger for almost the whole day, on most days, for an extended time. These persistent symptoms interfere with day-to-day activities, including work, school, and personal relationships. Doctors use a combination of therapy and medications to treat the condition.

What is a dysthymic disorder?

A dysthymic disorder is a long-term chronic depression that makes you lose interest in daily activities, causes you to feel hopeless, and lowers self-esteem. A person living with dysthymia feels hopeless and experiences an overall sense of inadequacy.

The symptoms may last for years and interfere with all your relationships. A person with a dysthymic disorder may find it difficult to be upbeat even in the face of happy news. People around you may feel like you have a gloomy personality, someone incapable of having fun. Although the condition is not severe, the constant depressed mood can be bothersome.

Symptoms of a dysthymic disorder

The symptoms of a dysthymic disorder often come and go with time, but their intensity can differ. In most cases, the symptoms persist for several months at a time. Besides this, significant episodes of depression might occur during or before the persistent depressive disorder. The expert often refers to this period as double depression.

The primary symptoms of a dysthymic disorder include:

  • Sadness, feeling empty or down
  • Loss of interest in day-to-day activities
  • Lack of energy
  • Hopelessness
  • Trouble concentrating and making decisions
  • Feeling incapable, having low self-esteem, or indulging in self-criticism
  • Excessive anger or irritability
  • Avoiding social activities
  • Reduced activity, productivity, and effectiveness
  • Overeating or poor appetite
  • Sleep issues
  • Feeling worried or guilty about the past

Causes of a dysthymic disorder

Like other forms of depression, there is no proof of the exact cause of a dysthymic disorder. However, several factors tend to contribute to the condition, including:

  • Brain chemistry: An imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain can contribute to the onset of depression. Certain environmental factors, like prolonged stress, can alter these brain chemicals. Professionals prescribe antidepressants to alter these neurotransmitters to help improve your mood.
  • Genetics: Studies have proven that people with a history of depression among close family members are at a much higher risk of developing depression.
  • Environmental factors: Several environmental factors, including grief, stress, trauma, and significant life changes, can contribute to depression.

Treatment of a dysthymic disorder

Treatment for a dysthymic disorder usually consists of medications and psychotherapy.

Dysthymic Disorders


Your doctor may prescribe different types of antidepressants to treat dysthymia, including:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants like amoxapine (Asendin) and amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors like Sertraline (Zoloft) and Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Norepinephrine and Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors like Duloxetine (Cymbalta) and Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq).

You will have to try various medications and alter dosages to reach a practical solution for your particular needs. Often drugs take time to provide the full effect, so you must be patient. Discuss any concerns you have with your doctor about the medications.


Your doctor may recommend you undergo cognitive-behavioural therapy or psychotherapy. Often known as talk therapy, psychotherapy involves talking sessions with a mental health professional. They may be done remotely via video calls and phones or in person. Professionals recommend that You may also take part in group sessions.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (C.B.T.) focuses on altering your behaviours and actions along with your emotions and thoughts. C.B.T. involves identifying and dealing with the root cause of the depression. It includes talking with a therapist who will help you deal with your symptoms and establish safe coping mechanisms for your condition. This therapy is helpful in the short term and can reduce the risk of future relapses.

Working with the therapist will help you learn to:

  • Communicate your feelings and thoughts in a positive way
  • Deal with your emotions
  • Identify behaviours, thoughts, and emotions that aggravate or trigger your symptoms.
  • Adjust to a crisis or life challenge
  • Recoup a sense of control over your life
  • Replace your negative feelings with positive ones.

Lifestyle changes

A dysthymic disorder is a chronic condition, so you must actively participate in the treatment devised by your therapist. However, lifestyle adjustments can complement your treatment and help ease the symptoms. These lifestyle changes include:

  • Working out at least three times a week
  • Eating a diet rich in healthy and nutritious foods such as vegetables and fruits
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • Consulting an acupuncturist
  • Keeping a journal
  • Practising yoga, meditation, or Tai Chi.

How to overcome a dysthymic disorder?

With medication, lifestyle changes, and psychotherapy, you can effectively manage your symptoms of dysthymia and feel better. However, some people experience depressive symptoms all their lives. Getting the correct diagnosis is the first step to feeling better when living with chronic depression.

We can take several steps to cope with the condition and feel better. Since the disease is chronic, incorporating healthy lifestyle habits, medications, and psychotherapy will help you deal with your situation. Talk to your doctor about the benefits of healthy lifestyle habits, as they can help improve your mood and overall well-being.

While practising good lifestyle habits when you feel depressed can be pretty challenging, remember that you don’t need to be perfect. Small changes can also make a big difference in your mindset and mood. Make small goals and build on them gradually over time.


Even mild symptoms of depression, such as those experienced in dysthymia, can disrupt your daily life, mainly when the symptoms last longer. Fortunately, several effective treatment options for the condition can make a massive difference in your well-being and overall health. Discuss your feelings with your doctor and learn about the treatment options to find the one that is right for you.

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Author : United We Care

Founded in 2020, United We Care (UWC) is providing mental health and wellness services at a global level, UWC utilizes its team of dedicated and focused professionals with expertise in mental healthcare, to solve 2 essential missing components in the market, sustained user engagement and program efficacy/outcomes.

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