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Depression Health Center

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Dysthymia (Mild, Chronic Depression)

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How Is Dysthymia Diagnosed? continued...

With dysthymia, your doctor will want to make sure that the symptoms are not a result of a physical condition, such as hypothyroidism.

If you are depressed and have had depressive symptoms for more than two weeks, see your doctor or a psychiatrist. Your provider will perform a thorough medical evaluation, paying particular attention to your personal and family psychiatric history.

There is no blood, X-ray or other laboratory test that can be used to diagnose dysthymia.

How Is Dysthymia Treated?

While dysthymia is a serious illness, it’s also very treatable. As with any chronic illness, early diagnosis and medical treatment may reduce the intensity and duration of symptoms and also reduce the likelihood of developing an episode of major depression.

To treat dysthymia, doctors may use psychotherapy (talk therapy), medications such as antidepressants, or a combination of these therapies. Often, dysthymia can be treated by a primary care physician.

What Is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy (or talk therapy) is used in dysthymia and other mood disorders to help the person develop appropriate coping skills for dealing with everyday life and challenging erroneous negative beliefs about oneself. Psychotherapy can also help increase adherence with medication and healthy lifestyle habits, as well as help the patient and family understand the mood disorder. You may benefit from one-on-one therapy, family therapy, group therapy, or a support group with others who live with chronic depression.

How Do Antidepressants Help Ease Dysthymia?

There are different classes of antidepressants available to treat dysthymia. Your doctor will assess your physical and mental health, including any other medical condition, and then find the antidepressant that is most effective with the least side effects.

Antidepressants may take several weeks to work fully. They should be taken for at least six to nine months after an episode of chronic depression. In addition, it sometimes may take several weeks to safely discontinue an antidepressant, so let your doctor guide you if you choose to stop the drug.

Sometimes antidepressants have uncomfortable side effects. That’s why you have to work closely with your doctor to find the antidepressant that gives you the most benefit with the least side effects.

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