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Mental Health Center

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Mood Disorders

Treatment for Dysthymic Disorder

Staying in a constant state of moodiness is no way to live. That's one reason to seek treatment. Another is that dysthymic disorder can also increase your risk for physical diseases. Yet another reason to pursue treatment? If left untreated, this mood disorder can develop into more severe depression. It can also increase your risk for attempting suicide.

Psychotherapy ("talk therapy") is generally considered the treatment of choice for dysthymic disorder, and no medicine is formally FDA-approved for its treatment. However, if psychotherapy alone is not fully helpful, a two-pronged, long-term treatment approach may then include antidepressant medication in addition to psychotherapy. Some studies show that antidepressant medications or psychotherapy can be effective for dysthymic disorder, and sometimes a combination of both may work best.

Antidepressants , such as selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors or tricyclic antidepressants, are often used to treat dysthymic disorder. Because you may need to continue treatment for a lengthy period, it's important to consider which medications not only work well but also ideally have few side effects. You may need to try more than one medication to find the one that works best. But know that it may take several weeks or longer to take effect. Successful treatment for chronic depression often takes longer than for acute (non-chronic) depression.

Take your medications as your doctor instructs. If they're causing side effects or still not working after several weeks, discuss this with your doctor. Don't suddenly stop taking your medications.

Specific kinds of talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic psychotherapy, or interpersonal therapy (IPT), are known to be effective forms of psychotherapy that treat dysthymic disorder. A structured treatment lasting for a certain period of time, CBT involves recognizing and restructuring thoughts. It can help you change your distorted thinking. IPT is also a time-limited, structured treatment. Its focus is on addressing current problems and solving interpersonal conflicts. Psychodynamic psychotherapy involves exploring unhealthy or unsatisfying patterns of behavior and motivations that you may not be consciously aware of which could lead to feelings of depression and negative expectations and life experiences.

Some studies also suggest that aerobic exercise can help with mood disorders. This is most effective when done four to six times a week. But some exercise is better than none at all. Other changes may also help, including seeking social support and finding an interesting occupation. Used for patients with seasonal affective disorder, bright-light therapy may also help some people with dysthymic disorder.

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