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What Is Dysthymic Disorder?


You may have heard of Major Depressive Disorder. However, individuals who experience depression may not necessarily have a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder. Instead, they may have a diagnosis of Dysthymic Disorder. You may be wondering what Dysthymic Disorder is. This article will explain this. In addition to explaining the criteria for a diagnosis of Dysthymic Disorder, this article will also describe the specifiers of Dysthymic Disorder.

What Is The Criteria For Dysthymic Disorder?

According to, the following is the criteria for a diagnosis of Dysthymic Disorder:

  1. A person has depressed mood for most the time almost every day for at least two years. Children and adolescents may have irritable mood, and the time frame is at least one year.
  2. While depressed, a person experiences at least two of the following symptoms:
    • Either overeating or lack of appetite.
    • Sleeping to much or having difficulty sleeping.
    • Fatigue, lack of energy.
    • Poor self-esteem.
    • Difficulty with concentration or decision making.
    • Feeling hopeless.
  3. A person has not been free of the symptoms during the two-year time period (one-year for children and adolescents).
  4. During the two-year time period (one-year for children and adolescents) there has not been a major depressive episode.
  5. A person has not had a manic, mixed, or hypomanic episode.
  6. The symptoms are not present only during the presence of another chronic disorder.
  7. A medical condition or the use of substances (i.e., alcohol, drugs, medication, toxins) do not cause the symptoms.
  8. The person’s symptoms are a cause of great distress or difficulty in functioning at home, work, or other important areas.

What Are The Specifiers For Dysthymic Disorder?

According to, there are three specifiers for Dysthymic Disorder, including early onset, late onset, and with atypical features. According to, on the basis of the early onset specifier, “Dysthymic symptoms begin before the age of 21. This may increase the likelihood of developing later major depressive episodes.” According to, on the basis of the late onset specifier, “Dysthymic symptoms begin after the age of 21.” According to, on the basis of the atypical features specifier, “symptoms are experienced during the last two years.”


This article has provided the reader with the criteria of Dysthymic Disorder and the specifiers for Dysthymic Disorder.  On a final note, to have a diagnosis of Dysthymic Disorder, as oppose to a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, symptoms must be present for an extended period of time, specifically for at least two years or more.

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What Is Dysthymic Disorder?

Lauren Walters

My name is Lauren Walters. I am currently heading into my final semester of graduate school for Mental Health Counseling in the Spring of 2016. Through my own experiences with mental illness, I love to inspire others through my writings and reassure them that they can live healthy, productive lives, despite mental illness. I hope you enjoy my articles. Feel free to comment. I will be sure to respond to you questions and/or comments in a prompt manner. Enjoy!

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APA Reference
Walters, L. (2016). What Is Dysthymic Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2016
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