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Sometimes we feel a bit down for a little while, which is okay. But if you have felt low for a long time, it could be a sign of something more serious. Know when to seek help.

What is dysthymia?

Dysthymia is a form of depression that lasts for at least two years. How you feel can vary over time, with some days and weeks feeling better, but if more than half of the days are characterised by depression, you may have dysthymia.

It is rarely a single cause but a combination of genetic, psychological and environmental factors. Severe events such as loss, trauma and prolonged stress can also lead to the development of the condition. There may also be underlying biological explanations such as a lack of serotonin or noradrenaline. It is important to seek help, you do not have to struggle alone.

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Is dysthymia chronic depression?

If you have been depressed and had symptoms of depression that have lasted for more than two years, the condition is said to be chronic. Dysthymia is therefore seen as a form of relief from chronic depression. If you have an undefined feeling of anxiety or depression, do not hesitate to seek out a professional therapist to help you. It is a treatable condition and at Lavendla we can help you.

Symptoms of long-term depression

Dysthymia is a persistent low mood where more than half of the days are characterised by low mood. There would be at least two other depressive symptoms present, which is fewer than in ordinary depression, and the mood would not follow directly from ordinary depression but be more independent. Here are some common symptoms:

  • Decreased energy or activity
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Reduced self-confidence or feelings of inadequacy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent crying spells
  • Reduced interest or enjoyment in activities that usually bring pleasure
  • Feelings of hopelessness or abandonment
  • A perceived inability to cope with the usual responsibilities of everyday life
  • Pessimism about the future or brooding about past events

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Other conditions such as anxiety, ADHD and PTSD

If left untreated, other psychological conditions can turn into dysthymia or depression over time. This may be because you become more depressed if you withdraw from things and events as in anxiety and PTSD. You may experience difficulties in coping with things that others can do, as in neuropsychiatric problems, and then become depressed. It is important to get a basic assessment when seeking help so that you can also get treatment for other conditions that may be underlying dysthymia.

There are effective treatments

If you suffer from dysthymia, it is possible to get help. Treatment can vary depending on the severity of the condition and individual needs. Usually this is included in the treatment:

  1. Psychotherapy: Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours that may be contributing to the condition. Other forms of therapy, such as interpersonal therapy and psychodynamic therapy, can also be effective.
  2. Medications: Medications may be prescribed to treat dysthymia, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are common types of antidepressants used.
  3. Combination treatment: For some people, a combination of psychotherapy and medication may be most effective.
  4. Lifestyle changes: A healthy lifestyle can have positive effects on mood. Regular physical activity, a balanced diet and getting enough sleep can all help to improve mood.

If you or someone you know is suffering from dysthymia, it is important to seek professional help from a doctor, psychologist or other qualified therapist for a thorough assessment and treatment. It is easy to get stuck in a pattern of negative thoughts and behaviours that make it difficult to make a change on your own. At Lavendla, our experienced psychologists and therapists are available to help you feel better.


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We make the difficult easier

Experiencing difficult emotions is common, but sometimes you may need support. It is an important step in improving your quality of life and therapy can help you deal with different issues. At Lavendla, we have therapists and psychologists ready to help you. We make the difficult easier.

In an acute mental health emergency, call 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk immediately.


12 frequently asked questions about dysthymia

What is dysthymia?

Dysthymia is a form of depression that lasts for at least two years with symptoms at least half the time.

What are the most common symptoms of dysthymia?

Dysthymia is a form of relieving constant depression. You also have at least two symptoms of depression such as persistent sadness, lack of energy, sleep problems and a reduced appetite. Consultation with a psychologist or therapist can help make a diagnosis.

What causes chronic depression?

There are often multiple causes for its development, with a combination of genetic, psychological and environmental factors. Severe events can also be risk factors but biological explanations can also cause the condition.

How is dysthymia treated?

Treatment options often include a combination of medication, therapy and lifestyle changes. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common form of psychological treatment but other methods can also be helpful.

What is the difference between regular depression and dysthymia?

Dysthymia is a condition that resembles depression but does not meet all the criteria for major depression. Dysthymia also lasts for a longer period of time and is considered more mild and chronic, but it is treatable.

How long is a treatment for dysthymia?

The length of treatment can vary depending on the severity and individual needs.

Can children have dysthymia?

Children, like adults, can suffer from low mood and even depression. It is important to seek help quickly if you feel that your child has symptoms of depression.

Can exercise help?

Yes, regular physical activity has been shown to improve mood and mental health. But it should not replace professional care and medication.

What are the risk factors for dysthymia?

Stress, trauma, and personal adversity are common risk factors but there are other causes such as underlying neuropsychiatric problems, genetic factors or biological causes.

Is depression more common in men or women?

Depression in general is more common in women, but men are less likely to seek help.

How does dysthymia affect relationships?

Depression can make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships and can lead to social isolation. Therefore, it is important to seek help to break the pattern.

Where can I get help?

If you experience symptoms of dysthymia, it is important to seek professional help. Our psychologists and therapists are available for online sessions and can help you make the difficult easier.

What help is available for dysthymia?

Seeking help is a big step towards better health. It is a positive thing to decide to take control of how you feel. Here is an overview of the steps usually involved in therapy.

Step 1: An initial assessment session

The first meeting with your psychologist or therapist is usually a diagnostic assessment to review your mental and physical health. You may be asked questions about your life situation, feelings, thoughts and behaviours. You may also be asked to complete assessment forms.

Step 2: Goal setting

This is where you and your therapist set concrete goals for the therapy, both short- and long-term.

Step 4: Treatment

This is the start of the actual treatment phase, which may include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or other treatment methods, as well as medication if necessary. The therapy may include exercises and homework assignments aimed at giving you tools to change the way you feel.

Step 5: Monitoring and evaluation

Treatment is monitored regularly to see how well the therapy is working. If necessary, the treatment plan can be adjusted or renewed.

Step 6: Ending and looking ahead

As the therapy comes to an end, it is time to reflect on the progress made. You will also receive a plan on how to use the tools and strategies you have learned in the future.

If you or someone close to you is seeking professional help for depression, don’t hesitate to book a session with one of our qualified psychologists or therapists. In an acute mental health emergency, call 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk immediately.

Lavendla – Making the difficult easier

Written by dominic

Dominic is a Cape Town-based copywriter and editor with a background in psychology.