What is dysthymic disorder?


Dysthymic disorder is also known as dysthymia, chronic depression or persistent depressive disorder. Dysthymic disorder can be diagnosed when you experience a low mood almost every day for at least two years. Dysthymia can also be seen as a mild form of depression, in which symptoms are present to a lesser extent and lower intensity. This can make it difficult to realise that you are suffering from a form of depression. With dysthymic disorder, it can feel like you’ve always been like this; you don’t know any different from feeling low. However, people with a dysthymic disorder suffer no less than people that suffer from ‘normal’ depression. You can feel very lonely and unhappy, and your complaints can affect your ability to function on a daily basis.


What are the symptoms associated with dysthymic disorder?

The main characteristic of dysthymic disorder is that you have experienced low mood for the majority of the time for over two years. In addition, you struggle with at least two of the following symptoms:

  • You feel sad, anxious or empty.
  • You have a lower interest in pleasurable activities.
  • You notice a change in your appetite; you have lost or gained weight.
  • Your sleeping pattern has changed; you have trouble sleeping or sleep less or excessively.
  • You notice changes in your activity levels; you feel restless and/or move more slowly than usual.
  • You are mentally and physically tired.
  • You experience feelings of guilt, helplessness, worry and/or fear.
  • Your self-esteem has decreased.
  • You have concentration problems and difficulty making decisions.
  • You have thoughts about death and/or suicide.

Long periods of low mood can alternate with periods during which you feel better. These periods often last no longer than two months. When suffering from dysthymia, you therefore feel depressed for the majority of the time. The disorder often occurs in combination with other psychological disorders, such as an anxiety disorder, a personality disorder or an (alcohol) addiction.


The difference with a ‘normal’ depression

As mentioned above, dysthymic disorder is similar to major depressive disorder. The difference is that you suffer from fewer symptoms and your complaints are less intense. However, the symptoms are present for much longer than with a ‘normal’ depression. It is possible to have both a depressive disorder and dysthymia, which is the case when you normally have dysthymic symptoms, but also occasionally have additional symptoms that make you temporarily meet the characteristics of depression. We then refer to depression in combination with dysthymic disorder.

You can read about the treatment of a dysthymic disorder in this article.



Mentaal Beter, Lentis PuntP, MindBlue, depsycholoog


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