Dysthymic Disorder


  • Dysthymic (dis-THI-mic) disorder, also called dysthymia, is a long-term mild to moderate type of mood (emotion) disorder. It is the most common type of depression and is often seen among women. It may be caused by physical or sexual abuse in childhood or having a family member with dysthymia. Certain conditions such as diabetes and alcoholism, or having behavior or personality problems, such as panic disorder, may also cause dysthymia. Dysthymia is when you feel depressed most of the day and are depressed for more days than not for at least two years. Dysthymia affects how you feel about yourself and life in general. It can involve a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in all or almost all of your usual activities. This may greatly affect your daily activities at school, work, or at home. Dysthymia may also cause you to have problems getting along with your family, friends, and other people.

  • When dysthymia occurs with more severe depression, you may have something called double depression. Double depression happens when you have both dysthymia and major depression. A guide is used by caregivers to diagnose dysthymia. At least two symptoms must be present for at least two years for a diagnosis to be made. Also, there should not have been more than one or two months where you have not had any symptoms. These symptoms must be bad enough to cause problems with your daily activities and relationships. Symptoms may include trouble sleeping or eating, worrying a lot, or feeling negative. Treatment for dysthymia includes behavior therapy and psychotherapy, anti-depressant medicines, or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Diagnosing and treating dysthymia as soon as possible may relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life.


Take your medicine as directed.

Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Ask your caregiver if you may take your medicines after eating. This may decrease unwanted side effects, such as abdominal (stomach) pain or unusual bowel movements.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.


  • Do not drink alcohol: Some people should not drink alcohol. These people include those with certain medical conditions or who take medicine that interacts with alcohol. Alcohol includes beer, wine, and liquor. Tell your caregiver if you drink alcohol. Ask him to help you stop drinking.

  • Be patient and keep your hopes up for improvement. Try to be patient and not too hard on yourself. Always be the first one to encourage yourself and find ways to boost your self-esteem. Working together with your family and friends and giving each other support will help you get through the hard times.

  • Be well informed about new treatments that may help. New treatments and therapies to help those with dysthymia are always being developed. Some may make a big difference to your quality of life. Talk to your caregiver before trying any new therapy or medicine.

  • Learn more about dysthymia and other mood disorders. The more you know about dysthymia, the better you will be able to help yourself. Read books, search the internet, or work with your caregiver and dysthymia support groups to help yourself.

  • Learn ways to manage stress. Deep breathing, meditation, and listening to music may help you cope with stressful events. Talk to your caregiver about other ways to manage stress.

  • Do not smoke: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information about how to stop smoking if you need help.


  • You cannot make it to your next meeting with your caregiver.

  • You feel you cannot help yourself or cope with your sadness.

  • Your dysthymia prevents you from doing most of your daily activities.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, medicine, or care.


  • You have new symptoms since the last time you visited your caregiver.

  • You have thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else.

  • You have trouble breathing, chest pains, or a fast heartbeat.

  • Your symptoms are getting worse.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Dysthymic Disorder (Aftercare Instructions)