If you think you may have dysthymia, start by listing your symptoms. According to the American Psychiatric Association, in addition to feeling depressed most of the time for at least two years (one year for children and adolescents), you also must have at least two of these symptoms:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- Low energy or fatigue
- Low self-esteem
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Poor concentration or indecisiveness.
If you have dysthymia symptoms, consult a knowledgeable health care provider for a diagnosis. Your doctor will likely give you a physical exam and perform some lab tests to determine if you have another physical condition that might be causing your symptoms. Since there’s no single lab test for diagnosing dysthymia, you and your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and what’s happening in your life to make an accurate diagnosis.
Other requirements for a dysthymia diagnosis are:
- You must not have had an episode of major depression during the first two years of having dysthymia (the first one year for children)
- You must not have had unusually elevated, hyperactive moods known as mania.
If you have dysthymia, youÃ•ll need to work with your healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate treatment. Left untreated, dysthymia can worsen, sometimes leading to major depression. Although doctors traditionally recommend medication and psychotherapy, alternative medicine and lifestyle changes may also help relieve dysthymia symptoms.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (ProzacÂ©) and sertraline (ZoloftÂ©), are commonly prescribed for dysthymia because they usually have fewer side effects than other drugs. Other options include:
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as phenelzine (NardilÂ¨)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), such as imipramine (TofranilÂ¨).
Psychotherapy may help you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that might be feeding your dysthymia, and you can also get help through support groups. You can also use the following suggestions for coping:
- Avoid becoming isolated. Take part in normal daily activities and some social activities.
- Plan your day and activities and try to maintain an organized structure. Keep your life obligations manageable.
- Read books that you find helpful and maybe even talk about them with your doctor or therapist.
- Stay focused on your recovery goals, remembering that recovery from dysthymia is an ongoing process.
- Take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep.
- Use relaxation and stress management techniques.
- Write about your feelings in a journal.
Familydoctor.org Staff. (2009). Dysthymic disorder: when depression lingers. Retrieved May 24, 2010, from the American Academy of Family Physicians website: familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/mentalhealth/depression/054.html.
Harvard Mental Health Letter Staff. (2005). Dysthymia. Retrieved May 24, 2010, from the Harvard Health Publications website: www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Dysthymia.htm.
Mayo Clinic Staff (2008). Dysthymia (dysthymic disorder): Coping and support. Retrieved May 26, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/dysthymia/DS01111/DSECTION=coping-and-support.