Dysthymia: The Other Depression

When you've been feeling down for a long time, and your dark mood is accompanied by at least two other symptoms, such as sleeping too little or too much, eating too little or overeating, low self-esteem, lack of focus, difficulty making decisions, or feelings of hopelessness, you may not be deeply depressed, but you're more than a little bit sad. This type of depression, known clinically as dysthymia, is characterized by many of the same symptoms as full-blown depression and can have similar effects on your personal and professional life.

If you experience some or all of the following changes in your thinking, feeling and behavior patterns, and they are persistent and last for a year or longer, you may suffer from dysthymia:

  • forgetfulness
  • short-term memory loss
  • negative thinking and outlook
  • self-criticism
  • excessive guilt
  • lack of motivation
  • sadness
  • loss of interest in normal activities
  • insomnia or oversleeping
  • excessive or unexplained crying
  • change in appetite
  • loss of productivity
  • apathy
  • loss of interest in sex
  • chronic fatigue

Dysthymia often affects young people, but can affect anyone, at any age, and can set the stage for episodes of major depression later on. Dysthymia in children lasts at least one year and is often a result of chronic stress, while in older adults it lasts at least two years, and is often brought on by health problems, mental decline or the deep sense of grief that often accompanies a loss.

According to Harvard Medical School, the most effective treatment for dysthymia is the same as treatment for major depression: a combination of talk therapy and antidepressant medication. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and you're not getting the help you need, ask a family member, close friend, or physician for a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist who may be able to provide some effective relief.




Debra Warner, Psy.D.
Associate Professor, Forensic Psychology
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Los Angeles

Creighton University: Dysthymia

Harvard Medical School: Feeling Down? It Could be Low-Level Depression. Harvard Health Publications Web March 2013