Almost everyone has periods of low mood, and most of us find that this mood can interfere with our work or social lives. For some people, low mood lasts for an unusually long time and can have a major impact on their lives.

Dysthymia is a form of depression that is usually less severe than Major Depression, but goes on and on. In adults, Dysthymia is only diagnosed when the low mood has lasted at least two years. In children and adolescents, Dysthymia may be diagnosed if it has lasted at least one year.

In order to receive a diagnosis of Dysthymia, a person must have had depressed mood most of the day, more days than not, for at least two years. This symptom might come and go a bit, but the person cannot have had symptom-free periods lasting longer than two months at a time. In children or adolescents, the main symptom might be irritability rather than obvious depression.

When the person is depressed, they must also have at least two of the following:

• Overeating or lack of appetite.
• Difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or sleeping far too much (hypersomnia).
• Low energy or fatigue.
• Poor self-esteem.
• Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
• Feelings of hopelessness.

These symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with social functioning, work, or other important areas of the person's life.

The person cannot ever have had a period of unusually high mood, such as a Manic or Hypomanic Episode. These problems suggest another problem called Bipolar Disorder. The mood problems and other symptoms must also not be better accounted for by a drug or other substance, or by a physical disorder (such as a thyroid problem).

If, based on this description, you believe that you may have Dysthymia, tell your physician. Effective treatments are available for this problem.

Note: Information on these pages is provided for educational purposes only. It should not be taken as a substitute for care from a qualified healthcare provider.