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Dysthymia (Dysthymic depression, Neurotic depression, Dysthymic disorder) is a chronic type of depression when women suffer from mild or moderate ongoing bad low (depressed) mood. Dysthymia is a Greek word – meaning “ill-humor”. Dysthymic depression is less severe form of depression that tends to last longer than major depression. Symptoms of dysthymia usually are not as severe as during major depression and at the same time, dysthymic depression has less mental and physical symptoms.

Dysthymic depression usually starts in early adulthood and continue for years and/or for decades. Unfortunately women are twice as likely as men to suffer from dysthymia.

Dysthymia causes

The exact cause of dysthymia is not known. It was suggested that changes in levels of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters – chemical messengers) could trigger development of dysthymia. Scientists noted increased frequency of dysthymic depression in women and in persons with family history of dysthymia. Genes could play an important role, but many affected women don’t have family history of dysthymia, and many women with family history of dysthymic depression don’t suffer from depression.

Most professionals agreed that in most cases the combination of factors could be recognized as a cause of dysthymic depression. Symptoms of dysthymia usually follow a particular stressful (depressive) episode, related to some shock or loss women experienced.

Women from some risk groups also have higher frequency of dysthymia incidents – women with anxiety, chronic stress, alcohol or drug addiction, and chronic illnesses. Dysthymic depression is also common among elderly and isolated women with health and mental problems.


Dysthymia symptoms

The main symptom of dysthymic depression include mood disturbances (without any visible objective reasons) – sad, bad, low, dark on-going mood during whole days (most of the day) during at least 2 years. Other symptoms of dythymia could be very similar to major depression but not as intense and as severe.

Generally speaking, dysthymic depression causes changes in thinking, feelings, behavior and physical well-being. Additional symptoms which could be observed in women with dysthymia (besides mood disturbances) include the following:

  • Permanent feeling of depression – sad feelings without any objective reason;
  • Negative feelings – pessimism, decreased self-esteem, guilt hopelessness, worthlessness and on-going self-criticism;
  • Lack of motivation – apathy – lethargy – irritability;
  • Low energy – fatigue – restless – rundown – slowing down – tiredness;
  • Sleep disturbances – insomnia or excessive sleep;
  • Concentration and decision making difficulties;
  • Short term memory problems and forgetting things regularly;
  • Changed appetite and weight – poor appetite or overeating – overeating or food addiction or food refusal;
  • Changes in behavior – social isolation, anger, loss of libido, neglecting personal appearance or hygiene;
  • Pains – any type of pain without visible objective reasons;
  • Lost interest in previously pleasurable things;
  • Negative beliefs about everything – the special ability to put a negative spin on everything (even on good things);
  • Change in routine daily activities or difficulties in completing daily tasks (at home and at work);
  • Thoughts about death or suicide, suicide plans and/or suicide attempt.

The severity of dysthymia symptoms varies and depends on the individual – some women can still manage daily activities and deal with the basic demands of life while others undergo significant distress, making it difficult to cope with work, school, social life and personal relations.

As it was mentioned earlier, dysthymia does not tend to debilitate women to the point where they cannot perform everyday routines but, at the same time, dysthymia is severe enough to cause negative stress (distress) and damage important/valuable relationships, activities, initiatives, roles and responsibilities.

Dysthymia diagnosis

Dysthymic depression is usually diagnosed when women have chronically depressed mood for most days for at least 2 years. During those 2 years, there will have been no major depressive episodes, though there might have been a bout with major depression in the past that has since resolved. During at least 2 months women with dysthymia usually experience minimum 2-3 above mentioned symptoms.

Dysthymia prevention

Many cases of dysthymic depression can be prevented if women could take care of their own health. There are some recommendations things you can try to prevent dysthymia:

  • Take care of your sleep hygiene – get enough restful sleep;
  • Use only healthy food – discover diet recommended for depression;
  • Make physical exercises a regular part of your lifestyle (at least 30-40 minutes of exercises per day);
  • Don’t worry and be happy! – make your life full of interesting and pleasurable activities;
  • Share your problems and thoughts with friends and discuss solutions with trusted people;
  • Be always positive and try to see positive elements in everything surrounding you (people, work, events, and activities);
  • Never use medications without doctor recommendations and if it is prescribed, take medicines correctly;
  • Avoid stress, alcohol and drug abuse;
  • Make good friends – surround yourself with friends who are caring and positive (exclude all envious and negative people from your friends’ list);
  • Be attentive to your body symptoms – learn to discover all possible early symptoms of dysthymia.

Dysthymia treatment

Dysthymic depression is known as pretty well treatable type of depression. As with all chronic diseases, early diagnosis and in-time medical treatment could reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. In most cases, early (in-time) correct treatment of dysthymic depression can prevent possible episodes of major depression.

Medical professionals recommend long-term treatment approach with specific medications combined with psychotherapy (“talk therapy”). Either medication or psychotherapy can be effective for dysthymic disorder, and sometimes a combination of both may work best.

Whatever medication is prescribed for dysthymia by your doctor, it should be used correctly and for recommended period of time. Don’t suddenly stop taking your medications.

It was noted that aerobic exercises can help with mood disorders including dysthymic depression – at least 4-5 times a week. This is most effective when done four to six times a week. If you don’t like aerobics, try other physical activities.

Social support could be very useful component of complex treatment of dysthymic depression. Sometimes social activities and interesting group hobbies could even prevent most symptoms of dysthymic depression.

Bright-light therapy may also help some women suffering from dysthymic depression.

It was noted that sometimes the herbal preparation St. John’s wort could also be helpful in cases of dysthymic depression.

Dysthymia prognosis

  • Dysthymic depression is a chronic illness which usually last or can last for years;
  • Many women can be completely recovered from dysthymic depression but, at the same time, many women experience dysthymia symptoms even during and after treatment;
  • Dysthymic depression is a risk factor for suicide plans and attempts.

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