Dysthymia is a mild to moderate form of depression that tends to last for several years, and is most common in women under the age of 21.
There is a long list of potential dysthymia symptoms, including:
- Appetite changes
- Decreased productivity
- Excessive anger
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of guilt, sadness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest and avoidance of social activities
- Low self-esteem and frequent self-criticism
- Poor concentration
- Sleep problems
- Trouble making decisions.
A dysthymia sufferer can usually function normally on a day-to-day basis, often without other people realizing he is depressed. However, even though people with dysthymia symptoms may be able to function, emotionally, they are unhealthy and unhappy. Fortunately, many effective dysthymia treatments are available.
For a clinical diagnosis of dysthymia depression, the criteria given by the American Psychiatric Association specifies that you must have had a depressed mood most of the time for at least two years (one year for children and adolescents), plus at least two of the following dysthymia symptoms:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- Low energy or fatigue
- Low self-esteem
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Poor concentration or indecisiveness.
Dysthymia often starts early in life, before the age of 21 (called “early-onset dysthymia”). Children and adolescents may not realize their sad mood is unusual, and may not complain of feeling depressed. They (and other people) may even think the feelings are just part of their personality. According to Children’s Hospital Boston, approximately 0.6 to 1.7 percent of children and 1.6 to 8 percent of adolescents have dysthymia. Dysthymia symptoms affect girls twice as often as boys.
If you suspect you or your child are having dysthymia symptoms, consult a health care provider to get a diagnosis and discuss possible treatment. Dysthymia depression usually does not just go away, and can develop into clinical depression if left untreated.
Children’s Hospital Boston Staff. (n.d.). Dysthymia. Retrieved May 24, 2010, from the Children’s Hospital Boston website: www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site816/mainpageS816P0.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): Symptoms. Retrieved May 24, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/dysthymia/DS01111/DSECTION=symptoms.