Dysthymia is a psychological disorder characterized by depression and anhedonia (the inability to find pleasure in things). The duration of dysthymia is usually two years or more, and that exceeds the duration of the average depressive episode. However, dysthymia seems to be less severe than other forms of depression, though it is more chronic. Elderly people and those with chronic physical problems are more likely to suffer from dysthymia.
Symptoms of dysthymia include feelings of hopelessness, negative thoughts and low self-esteem, insomnia or oversleeping, fatigue, poor appetite or overeating, and poor concentration. Individuals with severe dysthymia disorder may be unable to work, unable to engage in routine activities, and even suicidal. Many patients with dysthymia later see a worsening of their symptoms to the extent that they are diagnosed with major depression.
Treatment of dysthymia usually involves the use of antidepressants and psychotherapy. Dysthymia is also known by the label dysthymic disorder, and chronic low-level depression.
To determine whether an applicant should get disability benefits, Social Security evaluates dysthymia the same way as it does major depression. To learn about the criteria for getting disability for depression, please see our series of articles on disability for depression.