Dysthymia is a mild to moderate type of depression that tends to last for years. Treatment for dysthymia typically includes medications and psychotherapy, although lifestyle changes and alternative medicine also may help.
If you don’t respond to a traditional treatment plan, or you experience unpleasant side effects on depression medication, alternative depression therapies Ã‘ such as transcranial magnetic stimulation or electroconvulsive therapy Ã‘ may alleviate or cure dysthymia symptoms.
Medications for Dysthymia Treatment
Medications are less effective for dysthymia depression than they are for major depression. Antidepressants work for about 55 percent of people with dysthymia, according to a study reported by eMedicineHealth.
The three classes of antidepressants that appear to work equally well for treatment of dysthymia are:
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as phenelzine (NardilÂ¨)
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (ProzacÂ©) and sertraline (ZoloftÂ©)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), such as imipramine (TofranilÂ¨).
SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed drug treatment for dysthymia, as they tend to have fewer side effects.
Antidepressants may temporarily worsen anxiety symptoms, so your doctor may start you with a low dose and slowly increase your dosage over time. Some doctors may temporarily prescribe anti-anxiety medications if they aren’t contraindicated (as they are for someone with a substance abuse problem).
Antidepressants also carry an FDA “black box” warning, as evidence suggests they may increase the risk of suicide in children and young adults.
Psychotherapy for Dysthymia Treatment
Several types of therapy can help relieve dysthymia depression, including:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help patients identify and change self-defeating thought patterns and behavioral strategies
- Interpersonal therapy, which can teach patients how to deal better with other people, particularly in relation to conflicts
- Psychodynamic therapy, which can help patients resolve internal emotional conflicts.
Alternative Treatments for Dysthymia
Although little research has been done on alternative treatment for dysthymia, some people find nutritional supplements and mind-body therapies useful. Supplements include omega-3 fatty acids and St. JohnÃ•s Wort. Keep in mind that these supplements are not FDA-approved for dysthymia treatment, and they may adversely react with other medications.
Also, any technique that helps you manage your moods may alleviate symptoms, including:
- Massage therapy
Some cases of dysthymia donÃ•t respond to traditional treatment, and some people respond poorly to serious side effects of depression medications. In these cases, doctors may recommend an alternative therapy, such as:
- Electroconvulsive therapy
- TMS therapy
- Vagus nerve stimulation.
Self Care for Dysthymia Patients
In addition to medical treatment, patients with dysthymia may benefit from self-care measures, including:
- Eating regular, healthy meals
- Exercising regularly (Studies consistently show the benefits of exercise for improving moods.)
- Not abusing drugs and alcohol, which only worsen depression symptoms
- Participating in activities that feel good or provide a sense of accomplishment.
As you learn what triggers your dysthymia depression symptoms, take steps to avoid these stressors when possible, and develop a plan for what to do if your symptoms reappear.
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.
Langenfeld, S. C. (2009). Dysthymic disorder: Treatment and medication. Retrieved May 24, 2010, from the eMedicine website: emedicine.medscape.com/article/290686-treatment.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). Dysthymia (dysthymic disorder): Lifestyle and home remedies. Retrieved May 26, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/dysthymia/DS01111/DSECTION=lifestyle-and-home-remedies.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). Dysthymia (dysthymic disorder): Alternative medicine. Retrieved May 26, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/dysthymia/DS01111/DSECTION=alternative-medicine.
Medline Plus Staff. (2010). Dysthymia. Retrieved May 24, 2010, from the Medline Plus website: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000918.htm.