Depression is a fairly common condition that can impact one’s quality of life significantly. Not all depressive experiences are the same. Sometimes depression can be mild, but long-lasting. This is the case with dysthymia. Dysthymia is a type of depressive disorder that affects approximately 4% of the population. Pervasive depressive disorder is the term currently used to describe this condition in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Dysthymia facts and statistics reveal who is most commonly impacted by this condition, as well as what treatment options can improve their symptoms.

Who Is Affected By Dysthymia?

People of all ages, races, and genders can develop dysthymia. The condition is diagnosed in children after one year of symptoms. Dysthymia in adults is diagnosed after two years. Some other dysthymia facts include:

  • Women are more three times more likely to experience dysthymia than men
  • Approximately 1.3% of adults in the U.S. have a dysthymic episode at some point in their lives
  • People with dysthymia diagnosis are more likely to have first-degree relatives with the condition
  • Early onset of dysthymia (before age 21) is associated with an increased likelihood of having a personality disorder and substance use disorder

Infographic with statistics about the prevalence of dysthymia

Age of Onset

The age of onset for dysthymia can vary. If someone is diagnosed before the age of 21, it is considered early-onset dysthymia. This condition is more likely to develop if someone experiences early trauma as a child, such as separation from a parent. People diagnosed after age 21 are considered to have late-onset dysthymia. If dysthymia criteria are met for two consecutive years, a co-occurring diagnosis of major depression should be given.

Rates of Dysthymia and Co-occurring Conditions

Dysthymia commonly coexists with additional diagnoses- most frequently with borderline personality disorder. People with borderline personality disorder have a co-occurring dysthymia diagnosis 70% of the time.

Dysthymia also frequently co-occurs with substance use disorder. Early experiences and genetic predisposition to dysthymia can make it more challenging to sustain emotional health, which can result in seeking external sources of stress reduction, like drugs and alcohol. Dysthymia and other mood disorders co-occur with substance use disorder 30–40% of the time.

Of those diagnosed with dysthymia, 80-90% are estimated to develop major depressive disorder. Dysthymia and major depression tend to share many symptoms, though major depression is usually a more debilitating condition.

Various statistics related to dysthymia and other co-occurring conditions

Diagnosing Dysthymia

Often people receive a dysthymia diagnosis after experiencing long periods of unremitting depressive symptoms. Dysthymia symptoms are similar to major depressive disorder but are less severe and longer in duration.

Some of the most common symptoms of dysthymia include:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Sleep issues
  • Appetite changes
  • Tearfulness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Social withdrawal
  • Guilt
  • Lack of enjoyment

These symptoms are present for any age group diagnosed. Irritability can also be a factor for those with dysthymia, particularly children. These symptoms must be present for a minimum of two years — with the individual feeling down or depressed most days — for a dysthymia diagnosis to be made in adults. In children, a diagnosis can be made after one year of symptoms.

Statistics on Dysthymia Treatment

Dysthymia is a treatable condition. Dysthymia treatment success depends on an accurate assessment of the condition and treatment that involves therapy and antidepressant medications.

If you are struggling with co-occurring dysthymia and addiction and find yourself relying on the use of substances to cope, help is available. Reach out to take the first step toward healing. The Recovery Village can help you move toward health and wellness.