What Is Dysthymia? - Treatment, Symptoms & Definition

Instructor: Ron Fritz
In this lesson you will learn what Dysthymic Disorder is and the methods used to treat it. You will also learn the difference between Dysthymia and Major Depression and when it is appropriate to give a diagnosis of Double Depression.


Every child knows of the lovable Winnie the Pooh character named Eeyore; he's the donkey who always seems to be losing his tail. Eeyore is famous for his pessimistic, despondent, sad, gloomy, hopeless, and apathetical outlook on life. Although everyone seems to love him, he constantly complains of having no friends. Little seems to bring Eeyore any pleasure; however, he is particularly appreciative when people remember his birthday. His favorite saying in response to just about everything is, 'Oh Bother!'

Eeyore most probably suffers from Dysthymia.

Eeyore Quote

What is Dysthymia?

Sometimes referred to as Chronic Depression, a characteristic trait of Dysthymia is a depressed feeling or mood occurring most of the time. Like Eeyore, someone suffering from Dysthymia is almost always 'down in the dumps.' Because of the long-term nature of Dysthymia, individuals suffering from Dysthymic Disorder often neglect to seek treatment; depression is all these individuals have ever known, so to them it seems normal.

What is Dysthymic Disorder?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) defines Dysthymic Disorder as having a depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, for at least two years. Additionally, during the same two years, two or more of the following must have also been present:

1. Poor appetite or overeating

2. Insomnia or hypersomnia

3. Low energy or fatigue

4. Low self-esteem

5. Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions

6. Feelings of hopelessness

Finally, to receive a diagnosis of Dysthymic Disorder, the individual's depression must have no other explanation such as Major Depressive Disorder or Schizophrenia.

Dysthymia vs. Major Depression

Dysthymic Teen
Dysthymic Teen

Because of the similarities between Dysthymic Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), many people confuse the two. The primary difference between the two disorders is the presence of major depressive episodes associated with MDD. Essentially, a major depressive episode is more severe than the daily depression experienced by a Dysthymic individual; a major depressive episode can be completely incapacitating and can even lead to suicide ideation.

Double Depression

When an individual has both Dysthymia and Major Depression, they are said to suffer from Double Depression. To receive a diagnosis of Double Depression, someone must first have been diagnosed with Dysthymia (two years of continuous depression) and then receive a subsequent diagnosis of Major Depression. Up to 75% of people with Dysthymic Disorder will eventually develop Major Depressive Disorder. A diagnosis of Dysthymic Disorder following a Major Depression diagnosis may only be made if it can be established that Dysthymia existed for a full two years prior to the first major depressive episode.

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