stack of stones near a dark river

The feelings people use to describe dysthymia include sadness or feeling down in the dumps. However, dysthymia goes much deeper than feeling sad or a little melancholy. Dysthymia is a chronic condition that develops into a loss of interest in performing daily activities and a low self-esteem. There are also persistent feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and challenges with productivity.


Because dysthymia is a chronic condition, these feelings can last for years. As a result, relationships, employment, education, and everyday activities can suffer negative consequences.


People who have dysthymia find it impossible to remain positive even when life is good. To the average observer, a person with dysthymia may come across as a constant complainer who is always gloomy and pessimistic.


What Causes Dysthymia?


Nobody knows how dysthymia develops. As a major depressive disorder, it may come about because of many different reasons. Some of the causes behind dysthymia include:


  • Family history of mental disorders
  • Personality traits such as negativity, pessimism, low self-esteem, self-critical, and dependence on others
  • Life events and the environment – traumatic events such as loss of a parent, high-stress levels, and financial challenges
  • Genetics – Dysthymia can run in the family
  • Brain chemistry – Several regions in the brain have been linked to an increased chance of dysthymia.


Dysthymia Symptoms


People with dysthymia can exhibit a depressed mood that lasts for most of the day, or more days with it than without, which can be around two years for adults and about one year for adolescents and children.


The symptoms of dysthymia can ebb and flow over time, with the intensity of the symptoms varying with each flare-up. However, symptoms will rarely disappear for more than two months at a time.


Some of the symptoms of dysthymia include:


  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Difficulty in decision making
  • Self-criticism, feeling incapable, and low self-esteem
  • Fatigue and low energy levels
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Hypersomnia (excessive tiredness)
  • No interest in daily activities
  • Overeating or poor appetite
  • Feeling guilty
  • Anger and irritability
  • Feeling down or sad
  • Social isolation
  • Low productivity and a decrease in activity


The most common symptoms exhibited in children include a depressed mood and irritability.


Dysthymia Treatment


Because the symptoms are chronic and pervasive, people with dysthymia will consider it to be a normal part of life. However, if you do notice any of the symptoms above, then getting help is critical.


The first step towards healing should be a physical evaluation by your doctor. This examination will rule out any other medical issues that may be causing the symptoms.


Create a journal to record your feelings over a few weeks as this will give your doctor a better understanding of your situation and how your daily activities may be impacting your symptoms.


The main treatments used for dysthymia include psychotherapy and medication. Treatment plans will vary between individuals due to differences in preferences, medication tolerances, and allergies, and whether you have received therapy in the past. Psychotherapy is usually recommended as the first course of treatment for children and adolescents.


Psychotherapy for Dysthymia


Counseling or talk therapy involves the client discussing their symptoms and describing the effect they are having on their life.


woman painting on the wallPsychotherapy can deliver many benefits, such as:


  • Learning about setting and attaining goals
  • Building self-esteem
  • Discovering methods for building positive relationships
  • Developing adaptive problem-solving skills
  • Learning to recognize negative beliefs and replace them with positive versions
  • Learning about situations that trigger dysthymia and developing coping strategies for them
  • Symptom and crisis management


There are many different variables involved with dysthymia, which means that employing more than one kind of psychotherapy will be necessary to create an effective overall treatment.


Unfortunately, there is no cure for depressive disorders, but that doesn’t mean people with dysthymia can’t live happy and productive lives. Symptoms grow and fade over the years, but getting professional help and creating a stable support system will aid in the healing process.


To learn more about getting help for dysthymia, click here: Depression Treatment