What is Dysthymia?
Oftentimes, a person with dysthymia will seek treatment due to increased stress or personal difficulties that are situational. However, after a diagnostic interview is conducted, the chronic nature of the disorder becomes apparent.1
What are the Treatments for Dysthymia?
There are several effective treatment approaches that work for dysthymia. The best treatment approach is combination therapy: psychotherapy combined with an antidepressant.1 Research from many studies, especially one conducted by Keller and colleagues in 2000 supports this evidence-based treatment.1 Keller and colleagues randomly assigned patients to one of three treatments: a depression-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), pharmacotherapy with the antidepressant Serzone, or a combination of the two.1 Results found that the combination of the two was 75 percent more effective than either psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy alone.1 As people suffering from dysthymia often have longstanding interpersonal difficulties, the combination treatment can target both the depressive symptoms and social functioning simultaneously.1
The first step to treatment is a thorough evaluation and correct diagnosis.1 Psychiatrists will evaluate the person’s current state of functioning, assess their mood type and severity, and check for suicidal ideation.1
Once a diagnosis has been made, there are several types of psychotherapy that are available to people with dysthymia. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that is client-centered is an effective treatment, as it offers a therapy environment specific to the person’s need for unconditional acceptance and support.1 Many times, other short-term approaches are preferred, as they emphasize realistic and attainable goals the individual can reach that will bring them back to their normal level of functioning.1 With this therapy, realistic goals are established early-on and are focused on, rather than the person’s mood state.1 Group therapy is also effective in treating patients with dysthymia.1 Oftentimes, a group is more supportive than an individual.1 Group therapy should be considered later on in treatment as the person builds their self-confidence.1 As issues with self-esteem often accompany people with dysthymic disorder, placing the person in a group situation too soon would hinder their treatment instead.1 Other types of therapy that have found to be helpful are family therapy and couples therapy.1
The goals of therapy vary with the type. CBT emphasizes change in one’s distorted way of thinking and perceiving the world.1 Interpersonal therapy focuses on a person’s relationships with others and how to improve and strengthen them.1 Solution-focused therapy looks at specific problems that are currently affecting an individual’s life and examines how to go about changing the individual’s behavior to solve these issues.1 Social skills training focuses on teaching the person new skills to be more effective in social and professional relationships.1 Oftentimes, psychoanalytic and other insight-oriented approaches are less effective due to their focus on the past.1 They are also quite lengthy.1
It is normal for people with dysthymia to take an antidepressant to help keep their energy levels up and keep them from reaching the lowest depressive moods.1 Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed medicines for chronic depression: Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and Luvox.1 It will take approximately six to eight weeks for the person to feel the full therapeutic effects, but attending therapy during that time helps with the same results.1
As dysthymia is a chronic disorder, mental health professionals should be sensitive to treatment approaches, carefully choosing one that will work the best depending upon the needs of the unique individual.1 Attention should be paid to other co-occurring disorders, such as social anxiety, phobia, and substance abuse.1 However, all of these disorders are treatable, and a person with dysthymia does not have to live a life of low moods.1 Getting help leads to a brighter future.
 Grohol, J. (2008). Dysthymia Treatment. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/dysthymia-treatment/0001522