Dysthymia: The Mild Form of Depression

Updated on August 10, 2021

Depression is a serious mental health problem that afflicts more than 18 million Americans in any given year. When they hear the word “depression” most people think of the deep, clinical kind that causes suicidal thoughts. There is more than one kind of depression though. Persistent Depressive Disorder, commonly called dysthymia, is considered a mild form of depression. It rarely leads to suicide attempts but it is no less debilitating if left untreated.

Symptoms of Dysthymia

If you suffer from any mental disorder, seeking treatment is vital. There are a variety of medications and therapy can be very effective. This can be in person or with today’s technology, you could seek an online therapy platform. The symptoms of dysthymia can be subtle and can last a long time. Often months or even several years. Here are some signs that you may be suffering from dysthymia:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Fatigue and low levels of energy
  • Lack of interest in activities you normally enjoy
  • Lack of concentration
  • Change in appetite, eating too much or too little
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Anhedonia: the inability to experience pleasure


In-person or online therapy can be effective in treating dysthymia. Due to the long-lasting nature of the condition, treatment can take considerable time to take effect. The most common form of therapy used is cognitive-behavioral. Thus, there is more data on this form of treatment. It has been found to work well in treating non-chronic as well as chronic forms of depression. Psychodynamic and schema therapy are sometimes used with dysthymia. There is however far less data on these treatments and so their effectiveness is not yet proven. Therapy is most effective when combined with medication.


There is a solid body of research to support the effectiveness of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) in the treatment of dysthymia. SSRIs prevent serotonin from being taken from the brain to be used in other parts of the body. Increased levels of this hormone in the brain help to prevent depression. An advantage of SSRIs is that they have few side effects and can be taken for an indefinite period. When combined with regular therapy, they have a high success rate in the treatment of dysthymia.


While dysthymia is largely caused by brain chemistry, there are ways to prevent incidents. It is important to first recognize the symptoms. You want to be aware of the onset of dysthymia early before it takes hold. Some steps that you can take include:

  • Spending time with family and friends to engage their support
  • Taking care to manage stress and anxiety before it overwhelms you
  • Seeking treatment and staying with it long-term

Depression is an all too common mental disorder that can have a detrimental effect on quality of life. Dysthymia is subtle and can be hard to diagnose but it is no less debilitating. You don’t have to suffer. Know the symptoms, take preventative measures, and seek treatment. Dysthymia doesn’t have to rule your life.

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