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Dysthymia – causes, side effects and treatments at

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 by

Dysthymia, also called persistent depressive disorder (PDD), is a type of chronic depression. The condition is relatively new – it combines dysthymia (less severe but long-lasting bouts of depression) and chronic major depressive disorder (persistent lack of interest in outside stimuli and sadness).

Similar to different types of depression, dysthymia may cause persistent feelings of deep sorrow and despair. These feelings may influence a person’s mood and behavior along with physical functions, like eating habits and sleep. This may cause people with dysthymia to lose interest in the activities they previously enjoyed. They may also have trouble accomplishing daily tasks.

While these symptoms are also seen in all forms of depression, in dysthymia the symptoms are less severe. However, the symptoms may manifest for longer periods. Individuals with dysthymia may struggle with various symptoms for years, and they might find it hard to focus on school, work, or personal relationships.

Known side effects of dysthymia

The side effects of dysthymia are similar to those of depression. But since dysthymia is chronic, people may need to deal with symptoms for several days or even years.

The symptoms of dysthymia may start to appear during childhood or adolescence. Toddlers and teenagers with dysthymia may seem irritable or pessimistic for long stretches of time. They may even have behavior problems, perform poorly at school, and have trouble interacting with other children in social settings. These symptoms may come and go through the years, and their severity can change over time.

These symptoms may include:

  • Appetite changes
  • Constant feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Decreased productivity
  • Indecisiveness
  • Lack of/low energy
  • A lack of interest in daily activities
  • Low self-esteem
  • A negative attitude
  • Refusal to participate in social activities
  • Sleep problems
  • Trouble concentrating

Body systems harmed by dysthymia

The complications linked to dysthymia include:

  • A decrease in quality of life
  • Feelings of uncertainty about the future
  • Inability to concentrate on school/work
  • Obesity (due to appetite changes)
  • Substance abuse (to avoid feeling frustrated)
  • Suicide
  • Weight loss

Food items or nutrients that may prevent dysthymia

The following foods and nutrients can help people manage the symptoms of dysthymia:

  • Antioxidants – Antioxidants help fight free radicals. These damaged molecules can accumulate in different cells in the body and cause cell death. The brain is susceptible to this kind of damage, and it requires an efficient way of eliminating free radicals. Sources of antioxidants include foods rich in vitamin E, vitamin C, and vitamin A/beta-carotene.
  • B vitamins – Some B vitamins are crucial to managing mood disorders like depression. Vitamin B12 and folate/vitamin B9 can both help reduce the risk for mood disorders. Sources of B vitamins include eggs, fish, meat, milk, oysters, poultry, and whole grains. Sources of folate include beans, dairy products, dark leafy vegetables, eggs, fruit and fruit juices, meat and poultry, nuts, seafood, and whole grains.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Consuming food rich in omega-3 fatty acids can “boost the level of healthful fats available to the brain, preserve the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells, and keep the brain working at the highest level.” Omega-3 fatty acids can also reduce the risk of mood disorders and brain diseases. Sources include cold water fish, (e.g., tuna, mackerel, salmon, and sardines), flaxseed, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and nuts (e.g., almonds and walnuts).
  • Selenium – Selenium deficiency is linked to poor moods, and increasing your selenium levels can help reduce symptoms of dysthymia. Sources include Brazil nuts, some seafood, organ meats (e.g., liver), supplements, and whole grains.
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with several mood disorders like depression. The vitamin can be obtained via full-body sun exposure. Other sources include supplements and fatty fish (e.g., tuna, mackerel, and salmon).
  • Zinc – Zinc can help influence depression. People with clinical depression may have low zinc levels, and zinc supplementation can also boost the effectiveness of antidepressants. Sources include beans, nuts, oysters, supplements, and whole grains.

Treatments, management plans for dysthymia

Treatment for dysthymia involves medication and talk therapy. While medication is considered more effective than talk therapy when used alone, combining both is usually better for individuals with dysthymia.

Medications for dysthymia include different kinds of antidepressants like:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – Fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft).
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) – Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) and duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) – Amitriptyline (Elavil) and amoxapine (Asendin)

Individuals with dysthymia may have to try different medications and dosages to determine the best solution for their condition.

People with dysthymia can also benefit from talk therapy because a therapist can help you learn how to:

  • Adjust to dilemmas or a life challenge
  • Analyze behaviors, emotions, and thoughts that can trigger or aggravate symptoms
  • Communicate thoughts and feelings in a healthy manner
  • Cope with emotions
  • Regain a sense of satisfaction and control over your life
  • Replace negative beliefs with positive ones
  • Set achievable personal goals

Talk therapy can be an individual or group activity. There are support groups for those who want to discuss their feelings with others who are going through the same experiences.

Where to learn more


Dysthymia is a type of chronic depression. Similar to different types of depression, it may cause persistent feelings of deep sorrow and despair and influence a person’s mood and behavior.

Foods and nutrients like antioxidants, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and selenium can help people manage the symptoms of dysthymia.

Treatment for dysthymia involves medication and talk therapy. Medication might more effective than talk therapy when used alone, but combining both is usually better for individuals with dysthymia.

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