Dysthymia, when melancholy takes over your mind

the dysthymia (Dysthymia) is a mild variant of depression. Dysthymia is usually at a borderline of the depression spectrum. At the other, more serious extreme, we could place the most acute depressive disorders.

What is dysthymia?

The word comes from the Greek, “altered humor”. People with dysthymia usually go on with their routine for years without receiving treatment or assistance. We can recognize them to show signs of depression, but there is nothing in their behavior or their attitudes which, a priori, can make us notice that this person is indeed suffering from a psychological disorder. Dysthymia is an affective disorder and the rate of treatment effectiveness is very high.

affected people

Dysthymia affects almost 2% of the population, being slightly less common than major depression (which affects about 4% of people) and like other emotional disorders, there is generally a higher rate of dysthymia in women.

An episode of occasional sadness or heaviness should not be confused with dysthymic disorder. Everyone is likely to feel sad during a vital stage, and this does not suggest any abnormalities. In order for the melancholy period to be considered dysthymia, it must occur every day for at least two years.


The most common symptoms in affected patients are melancholy and the sadness. They generally find it almost impossible to find happiness and satisfaction in their daily routine. They also have low self-confidence and are unable to make decisions.

Fatigue and low activity they are also often signs of dysthymia. Often, sleeping and eating habits are altered. As for half, people with dysthymia may suffer from insomnia, or sleep more hours than recommended. Regarding nutrition, they sometimes present episodes of excessive intake, or a noticeable lack of hunger.

Concentration and memory are affected. It is common for those affected to begin to socially isolate themselves over time, a problem that can eventually lead to social disability or even social phobia.

In contrast, unlike some cases of major depression and bipolar disorder, in dysthymia, no psychotic type symptoms appear like hallucinations or delusions.

the causes

There is some controversy over the causes of dysthymic disorder. Some research indicates a prevalence of hereditary factorWhile new studies suggest the causes are environmental: social isolation, occasional setbacks in life and prolonged stressful situations.

The unique feature of dysthymic disorder is that more than 75% of those affected suffer from another chronic problem, Such as a physical illness, drug addiction or other psychiatric disorder. It is often difficult for medical staff to establish what the above problem is, as the starting rhythms are often scattered.

Treatment and therapy

The various treatments require intense work with the person concerned in order to detect the underlying causes. The two most effective treatment modalities are cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy.

In addition, pharmaceutical carriers can significantly help patients with dysthymia.

In any case, talking to the patient about their concerns usually helps the patient a lot and tends to allay negative feelings and thoughts such as guilt or feelings of worthlessness. Psychological treatment also seeks to allow the person to manage his emotions..

Complementary to individual therapy, group therapy helps to regenerate the affected person’s loss of self-esteem and improve their social skills.

How is dysthymia different from depression?

The person with dysthymia usually has a fairly routine and normal life despite their disorder. In contrast, the depressed patient is unable to maintain this routine. Therefore, the fundamental difference is the degree of disability presented by the subject.

  • Lack of interest is not seen in dysthymic disorder. They can also experience pleasure.
  • There is no fuss, no sluggishness of the engine.
  • Ramps or recurring thoughts about suicide or death are not uncommon.
  • A precise diagnosis must be made by a psychologist or psychiatrist specializing in this type of disorder. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from dysthymia, we recommend that you seek professional treatment, as cases of dysthymia often lead to depression if not treated properly.

Bibliographical references:

  • American Psychiatric Association (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
  • Angold A, Costello EJ. (1993). Depressive comorbidity in children and adolescents. Empirical, theoretical and methodological questions. I am J Psychiatry.
  • Blanco C .; Joy, AA; Liu, SM; Secades-Villa, R .; Sugaya, L .; Davies, C .; Nunes, EV (2012). Differences between major depressive disorder with and without co-occurring substance use disorders and substance-induced depressive disorder: Findings from the National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions. J Clin Psychiatry. 73 (6): pages 865 to 873.
  • Escriba R, Maestre C, Amores P, Pastor A, Miralles E, Escobar F. (2005). Prevalence of depression in adolescents. Actas Esp Psiquiatr.
  • Harrington R. (2005). Affective disorders. Child and adolescent psychiatry. 4th ed. Oxford: Blackwel Publishing.
  • World Health Organization. (2007). Depression. Geneva: World Health Organization.

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