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Q: What is Dysthymia? What are the symptoms of Dysthymia?

A: dysthymia (meaning ill-humoured) is a sub-clinical or sub-affective disorder characterised by the presence of a depressed mood almost every day for a period of at least two years. People with this disorder feel sad or down in the dumps and describe this as part of their day-to-day experience– “I have always been this way” or “that’s just how I am”. In addition to feeling persistently low, they can have sleep problems, loss of appetite or overeating, low energy, low self-esteem and/or poor concentration. They often feel indecisive, inadequate, pessimistic and brood on the past. Family members of dysthymics often perceive them as being “always grumpy”.


Q: How is Dysthymia different from depression?

A: While dysthymia is less severe, it is a chronic form of  persistent, low-grade depression occurring over a continuous  period. It does not have an episodic pattern as seen in Major depressive disorder.

Q: I think I may be experiencing some of the symptoms of Dysthymia. Do I need to seek professional help or will I recover naturally on my own?

A: natural recovery is seen only in 10% of cases. A five-year  follow up study has shown that people who have untreated dysthymia developed Major depressive disorder (20%) and bipolar II disorder (15%). the persistent symptoms can also affect their personal relationships and their work performance. Hence, professional help is required to address this under-diagnosed illness.

Q: What is the treatment for Dysthymia? How can family and friends help?

A: the combination of medications, such as antidepressants and psychotherapy, may be the most effective treatment for dysthymia. cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and insight-oriented psychoanalytic therapy are effective as well. More recently, emphasis has been given to mindfulness-based CBT, considering the chronic nature of the disorder. Family therapy may help both the patient and the patient’s family to deal with the symptoms of this disorder.

Q: Do I need to see a psychiatrist or can I see a Gp or counsellor?

A: As dysthymia requires specalist intervention, it is recommended that you see a psychiatrist or psychologist, you may approach a GP for a specialist referral.

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