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Other Name: Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)
Dysthymia is a serious state of chronic depression, which persists for at least two years (one year for children and adolescents). Dysthymia is less acute and severe than major depressive disorder. As dysthymia is a chronic disorder, sufferers may experience symptoms for many years before it is diagnosed, if diagnosis occurs at all. As a result, they may believe that depression is a part of their character, so they may not even discuss their symptoms with doctors, family members or friends.
Dysthymia often co-occurs with other mental disorders. A “double depression” is the occurrence of episodes of major depression in addition to dysthymia. Switching between periods of dysthymic moods and periods of hypomanic moods is indicative of cyclothymia, which is a mild variant of bipolar disorder.
In the DSM-5, dysthymia is replaced by persistent depressive disorder. This new condition includes both chronic major depressive disorder and the previous dysthymic disorder. The reason for this change is that there was no evidence for meaningful differences between these two conditions.
Dysthymia characteristics include an extended period of depressed mood combined with at least two other symptoms which may include insomnia or hypersomnia, fatigue or low energy, eating changes (more or less), low self-esteem, or feelings of hopelessness. Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions are treated as another possible symptom. Mild degrees of dysthymia may result in people withdrawing from stress and avoiding opportunities for failure. In more severe cases of dysthymia, people may even withdraw from daily activities. They will usually find little pleasure in usual activities and pastimes.
The main symptoms of PDD are similar to those of depression. However, the key difference is that PDD is chronic, with symptoms occurring on most days for at least two years.
These symptoms include:
*Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness
*A change in appetite
*A lack of interest in daily activities
*A negative attitude
*Avoidance of social activities
The symptoms of PDD often begin to appear during childhood or adolescence. Children and teens with PDD may appear to be irritable, moody, or pessimistic over an extended period. They may also display behavior problems, poor performance at school, and difficulty interacting with other children in social situations. Their symptoms may come and go over several years, and the severity of them may vary over time.
There are no known biological causes that apply consistently to all cases of dysthymia, which suggests diverse origin of the disorder. However, there are some indications that there is a genetic predisposition to dysthymia: “The rate of depression in the families of people with dysthymia is as high as fifty percent for the early-onset form of the disorder”. Other factors linked with dysthymia include stress, social isolation, and lack of social support.
The main causes may include:
*A chemical imbalance in the brain
*A family history of the condition
*A history of other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or bipolar disorder
*Stressful or traumatic life events, such as the loss of a loved one or financial problems
*Chronic physical illness, such as heart disease or diabetes
*Physical brain trauma, such as a concussion
In a study using identical and fraternal twins, results indicated that there is a stronger likelihood of identical twins both having depression than fraternal twins. This provides support for the idea that dysthymia is in part caused by heredity.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association, characterizes dysthymic disorder. The essential symptom involves the individual feeling depressed for the majority of days, and parts of the day, for at least two years. Low energy, disturbances in sleep or in appetite, and low self-esteem typically contribute to the clinical picture as well. Sufferers have often experienced dysthymia for many years before it is diagnosed. People around them often describe the sufferer in words similar to “just a moody person”. Note the following diagnostic criteria:
During a majority of days for two years or more, the adult patient reports depressed mood, or appears depressed to others for most of the day.
When depressed, the patient has two or more of:
*Decreased or increased appetite
*Decreased or increased sleep (insomnia or hypersomnia)
*Fatigue or low energy
*Decreased concentration or problems making decisions
*Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
*During this two-year period, the above symptoms are never absent longer than two consecutive months.
*During the duration of the two-year period, the patient may have had a perpetual major depressive episode.
*The patient has not had any manic, hypomanic, or mixed episodes.
*The patient has never fulfilled criteria for cyclothymic disorder.
*The depression does not exist only as part of a chronic psychosis (such as schizophrenia or delusional disorder).
*The symptoms are often not directly caused by a medical illness or by substances, including drug abuse or other medications.
*The symptoms may cause significant problems or distress in social, work, academic, or other major areas of life functioning.
In children and adolescents, mood can be irritable, and duration must be at least one year, in contrast to two years needed for diagnosis in adults.
Early onset (diagnosis before age 21) is associated with more frequent relapses, psychiatric hospitalizations, and more co-occurring conditions. For younger adults with dysthymia, there is a higher co-occurrence in personality abnormalities and the symptoms are likely chronic. However, in older adults suffering from dysthymia, the psychological symptoms are associated with medical conditions and/or stressful life events and losses.
Dysthymia can be contrasted with major depressive disorder by assessing the acute nature of the symptoms. Dysthymia is far more chronic (long lasting) than major depressive disorder, in which symptoms may be present for as little as 2 weeks. Also Dysthymia often presents itself at an earlier age than Major Depressive Disorder.
Often, people with dysthymia will seek out treatment not necessarily because of depressed mood, but rather due to increasing levels of stress or because of personal difficulties that may be situation-related. This is hypothesized to be because of the chronic nature of the disorder, and how depressed mood is often thought to be a characterological pattern for the individual with the condition. Thus, it is only when the person experiences increasing stress that he or she thinks to go to some sort of trained professional for symptom relief. It is usually through the administration of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV that dysthymia is first diagnosed. At this point, with the help of a trained professional, a certain line of treatment is often discussed and then selected. It is important to consider all factors in the person’s life that may be affected when deciding on a particular course of treatment. Additionally, if one method of treatment does not particularly work for a certain individual, it may be helpful to try something else.
Psychotherapy is often effective in treating dysthymia. Different modalities have been shown to be beneficial. Empirically-based treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, have been researched to show that through the proper course of treatment, symptoms can dissipate over time. Other forms of talk-therapy (e.g. psychodynamic psychotherapy, interpersonal psychotherapy) have also been said to be effective in treating the disorder. It may be helpful for people diagnosed with dysthymia to develop better coping skills, search for the root cause of symptoms, and work on changing faulty beliefs (such as when patients believe themselves to be worthless).
In addition to individual psychotherapy, both group psychotherapy and self-help, or support groups, can be an effective line of treatment for dysthymia as well. Through these treatment modalities, issues such as self-esteem, self-confidence, relationship issues/patterns, assertiveness skills, cognitive restructuring, etc., can be worked through and strengthened.
The first line of pharmacotherapy is usually SSRIs due to their more tolerable nature and reduced side effects compared to the irreversible monoamine oxidase inhibitors or tricyclic antidepressants. Studies have found that the mean response to antidepressant medications for people with dysthymia is 55%, compared with a 31% response rate to a placebo. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants/SSRIs for dysthymia are escitalopram, citalopram, sertraline, fluoxetine, paroxetine, and fluvoxamine. It often takes an average of 6–8 weeks before the patient begins to feel these medications’ therapeutic effects. Additionally, multi-clinic governmental study, found that people with overall depression will generally need to try different brands of medication before finding one that works specifically for them. Research shows that 1 in 4 of those who switch medications get better results regardless of whether the second medication is an SSRI or some other type of antidepressant.
In a meta-analytic study from 2005, it was found that SSRIs and TCAs are equally effective in treating dysthymia. They also found that MAOIs have a slight advantage over the use of other medication in treating this disorder. However, the author of this study cautions that MAOIs should not necessarily be the first line of defense in the treatment of dysthymia, as they are often less tolerable than their counterparts, such as SSRIs.
Tentative evidence supports the use of amisulpride to treat dysthymia but with increased side effects.
A combination of antidepressant medication and psychotherapy has consistently been shown to be the most effective line of treatment for people diagnosed with dysthymia. Working with a psychotherapist to address the causes and effects of the disorder, in addition to taking antidepressants to help eliminate the symptoms, can be extremely beneficial. This combination is often the preferred method of treatment for those who have dysthymia. Looking at various studies involving treatment for dysthymia, 75% of people responded positively to a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and pharmacotherapy, whereas only 48% of people responded positively to just CBT or medication alone.
In a meta-analytic study from 2008, researchers found an effect size of ?.07 (Cohen’s d) between pharmacologic treatments and psychological treatments for depressive disorders, suggesting pharmacologic treatments to be slightly more effective, though the results were not found to be statistically significant. This small effect is true only for SSRIs, with TCAs and other pharmacologic treatments showing no differences from psychological treatments. Additionally, there have been several studies yielding results that indicate that severe depression responds more favorably to psychotherapy than pharmacotherapy.
Because of dysthymia’s chronic nature, treatment resistance is somewhat common. In such a case, augmentation is often recommended. Such treatment augmentations can include lithium pharmacology, thyroid hormone augmentation, amisulpride, buspirone, bupropion, stimulants, and mirtazapine. Additionally, if the person also suffers from seasonal affective disorder, light therapy can be useful in helping augment therapeutic effects.
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Though there is no clear-cut way to prevent dysthymia from occurring, some suggestions may have been made. Since dysthymia will often first occur in childhood, it is important to identify children who may be at risk. It may be beneficial to work with children in helping to control their stress, increase resilience, boost self-esteem, and provide strong networks of social support. These tactics may be helpful in warding off or delaying dysthymic symptoms.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.