What is Dysthymia?

A lot of people have asked this million dollar question, what is Dysthymia and is it more deadly than Major Depression? Dysthymia is a less intense form of the brain disease depression. However, the time requirement for this form of the disease  is always a minimum of 2 Years. A good working definition of Dysthymia would be; 2 years of a low-grade depression that never meets criteria for a Major Depression.

Just for review there are nine neurovegetative signs/symptoms of depression. The symptoms include:

  • Too much or too little sleep (insomnia)
  • Loss of interest in any and all activities (anhedonia)
  • Feelings of either guilt and  or hopelessness
  • Lack of or No Energy (Anergia)
  • Poor concentration
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • Depressed Mood
  • Too little or too much appetite (I guess that is all of us)
  • Suicidal ideation with or without a plan

Now the  key to understanding” Dysthymia” is that many affected persons are just walking around in the Days of Our Lives and NOT complaining.  Most patients with Dysthymia don’t come forward for treatment. They may use their faith or substance abuse to deal with their feelings. Now please remember that patients with Dysthymia can only have 2-3 of the above symptoms. If they have 4 look-out because here comes Major Depression around the corner. Major Depression requires only 2 weeks of a depressed mood and or anhedonia. There must also be (5) of the neurovegetative signs or symptoms present. This disease is chronic and can be disabling. Depression costs our country a lot of money and pain.  Yes, medication management and a safety plan are usually required.

Review Questions: True or False

  1. Dysthymia is more deadly than Major Depression?
  2. Medications are NEVER used to treat patients with Dysthymia?
  3. Prozac is the only antidepressant prescribed by Psychiatrists?
  4. Suicide is a deadly manifestation of Major Depression?
  5. Psychotherapy can be used to treat both Dysthymia and Major Depression?


1. F 2. F 3. F  4. T  5. T

Now please be advised, if you are experiencing either of the diseases above,  go immediately to your mental health provider of choice.  If you are feeling suicidal, you should GO DIRECTLY to the Emergency Room.

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