Dysthymia symptoms in adults may include:

  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Sadness or feeling down
  • Hopelessness
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Low self-esteem, self-criticism or feeling incapable
  • Trouble concentrating and trouble making decisions
  • Irritability or excessive anger
  • Decreased activity, effectiveness and productivity
  • Avoidance of social activities
  • Feelings of guilt and worries over the past
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Sleep problems

In children, dysthymia sometimes occurs along with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioral or learning disorders, anxiety disorders, or developmental disabilities. Examples of dysthymia symptoms in children include:

  • Irritability
  • Behavior problems
  • Poor school performance
  • Pessimistic attitude
  • Poor social skills
  • Low self-esteem

Dysthymia symptoms usually come and go over a period of years, and their intensity can change over time. But typically symptoms don't disappear for more than two months at a time. In general, you may find it hard to be upbeat even on happy occasions — you may be described as having a gloomy personality.

When dysthymia starts before age 21, it's called early-onset dysthymia. When it starts after that, it's called late-onset dysthymia.

When to see a doctor

It's perfectly normal to feel sad or upset sometimes or to be unhappy with stressful situations in your life. But with dysthymia, these feelings last for years and interfere with your relationships, work and daily activities.

Because these feelings have gone on for such a long time, you may think they'll always be part of your life. But if you have any symptoms of dysthymia, seek medical help. If not effectively treated, dysthymia commonly progresses into major depression. Sometimes, a major depression episode occurs in addition to dysthymia — this is called double depression.

Talk to your primary care doctor about your symptoms. Or seek help directly from a mental health provider. If you're reluctant to see a mental health professional, reach out to someone else who may be able to help guide you to treatment, whether it's a friend or loved one, a teacher, a faith leader, or someone else you trust.

Dec. 20, 2012