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Dysthymia, also known as chronic depression, is characterized by a long term (two years or more) depressed mood.  There are symptoms present that are associated with major depression but not enough for a diagnosis of major depression.   Dysthymia typically does not disable the person.  If you have symptoms of dysthymia, you may also experience one or more episodes of major  depression during your lifetime.
While not disabling like major depression, dysthymia can keep you from feeling your best and functioning optimally.  Dysthymia can begin in childhood or in adulthood. .
A mental health specialist generally makes the diagnosis based on a person’s symptoms. In the case of dysthymia, the symptoms  will have lasted for a longer period of time and be less severe than major depression.
If you  have had depressive symptoms for more than two weeks you should consider an evaluation by your doctor or a psychiatrist.  Your provider will likely perform a thorough medical evaluation, paying particular  attention to your personal and family history.  There is no blood, X ray or other laboratory test than can diagnose dysthymia.
While dysthymia can be  a serious illness, it is often treatable.  As with chronic illness, early diagnosis and medical treatment may reduce the intensity and duration of symptoms and also reduce the likelihood that it will  not develop into a major episode  of major depression.
To treat dysthymia, psychotherapy and if needed, medications (ie ant depressants) can be useful.  A combination of these therapies might  also be necessary.
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