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Dysthymia (pronounced dis-THIGH-me-uh) consists of a moderately low mood. It is less intense than major depression, but may be longer lasting.
The depression of dysthymia is formally defined as lasting at least two years. But this is not an absolute rule, and no one should wait two years before seeking help. Talk with a health professional if symptoms have lasted a few months, or sooner if there is no obvious cause (such as a loss or stress).
Other symptoms of dysthymia include
- Appetite or weight increase or decrease
- Poor sleep or sleeping too much
- Fatigue or low energy
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty concentrating
- Hopelessness or pessimism
Many people with dysthymia say they have been depressed as long as they can remember, or constantly go in and out of the depressed state. They may believe this is a "normal" part of life and not even think of mentioning it to people who could help -- family members, friends, or physicians.
Dysthymia, which is a very common problem, affects women more than men. Like major depression, it runs in families.
Some people with dysthymia have experienced a greater than average level of stress during childhood; for example, a parent may have died. Others say they are under chronic stress. It is often difficult to tell whether the stress in their lives is indeed greater than average or if it only feels that way to them because of their low mood.
Treatment can reduce the duration and intensity of the symptoms. Some people say that with treatment they experience life as less burdensome. Treatment can also reduce the risk of developing a major depressive disorder.
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