Dysthymia (Persistent Depressive Disorder)

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Dysthymia facts

  • Dysthymia, now referred to as persistent depressive disorder, is a form of depression that lasts more than two years at a time in adults and more than one year at a time in children and adolescents.
  • Dysthymia can afflict 3%-6% of the United States population -- women more than men and more African Americans than Caucasians and some groups of Hispanic people.
  • Dysthymic disorder usually co-occurs with other disorders, like major depression, anxiety, personality or somatoform disorders, and with substance abuse.
  • People with dysthymia tend to have a number of biological, psychological, and environmental risk factors that contribute to its development rather than one single cause of the illness.
  • In order to meet criteria for the diagnosis of dysthymia, a person must experience symptoms of depression most of every day, more days than not, for at least two years in a row in adults, or one year for children and teens.
  • Health professionals will likely conduct or refer for an extensive medical interview and physical examination and will conduct a thorough mental-health assessment as part of establishing the diagnosis of dysthymia.
  • The treatment of dysthymia is found to be most effective when it includes both medication treatment and several weeks of talk therapy (psychotherapy).
  • Serotonergic medications (SSRIs) are often the first-line medication treatment for dysthymia due to their effectiveness and high tolerability.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective as part of treatment for dysthymia.
  • People with dysthymia are at risk for having a compromised life adjustment, marital problems, and generally having low social support, even more so than people with major depression.
  • Attempts at prevention of dysthymia tend to address both specific and nonspecific risk factors and strengthen protective factors.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/5/2015

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Types of Depression

Depressive disorders are mood disorders that come in different forms, just as do other illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. Three of the most common types of depressive disorders are discussed below:

  • Major depression
  • Dysthymia
  • Bipolar disorder

However, remember that within each of these types, there are variations in the number, timing, severity, and persistence of symptoms.