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Definition  

Dysthymia a mild-to-moderate depression that may go away during periods of normal mood that last up to two months.

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Brainstem—Location of Serotonin Production  
Brainstem and brain

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Causes  

The cause of dysthymia is not known. A chemical in the brain called serotonin may play a role.

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Risk Factors  

Dysthymia is more common in women than in men. Factors that may increase your chance of developing dysthymia include:

  • Family history of major depression or dysthymia
  • Chronic mental or physical illness
  • Chronic stress
  • Environmental factors

People who have dysthymia may also experience episodes of major depression.

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Symptoms  

Dysthymia may be difficult to differentiate from depression due to many overlapping symptoms, which may include:

  • Feelings of sadness and/or hopelessness
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty functioning at work and school
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Diagnosis  

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical and psychological exam will be given.

Your doctor may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation. Tests may be done to look for medical causes like thyroid problems or anemia.

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Treatment  

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may include one or more of the following:

Antidepressant Medications  

Antidepressant medications may help to manage symptoms. Antidepressants take a few weeks to begin working. Take them as directed by your doctor.

Psychotherapy  

Therapy can help change unhealthy thought patterns. Psychotherapy may include:

Lifestyle Modifications  

In addition to medications and therapy, the following lifestyle modifications may help you feel better:

  • Participate in enjoyable activities.
  • Eat a healthful diet.
  • Avoid illegal drugs and alcohol.
  • Begin a safe exercise program with the advice of your doctor.
  • Have a regular sleep schedule.
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Prevention  

There are no guidelines for preventing dysthymia.