How Do I Manage Dysthymic Disorder?

Updated January 31, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When we see depression in the media, it is often presented in the form of someone who struggles to get up and follow through with basic tasks, such as eating and showering. While depression can certainly take the form of a debilitating mental health disorder, it does not always manifest as such. Instead, some people may deal with a type of depression that allows them to function on a day-to-day basis but is still accompanied by depressive feelings. This form of depression is known as dysthymic disorder or persistent depressive disorder.

Dysthymic disorder is a milder form of depression that is long-lasting and may be accompanied by major bouts of depressive episodes. If you are concerned you are managing a persistent depressive disorder, read further to learn how to manage it, especially with a consideration of professional mental health support. 

What Is Dysthymic Disorder? 

In clinical psychology, dysthymic disorder is characterized by a chronic form of mild to moderate depression that does not subside. People with the dysthymic disorder tend to experience depressive symptoms, such as a prolonged loss of interest, hopelessness, lack of energy, and low self-esteem. Dysthymic disorder, like other depressive disorders can be associated with multiple comorbid conditions, including anxiety, substance use disorders, and others.

Like most forms of depression, management of dysthymic disorder is certainly possible and treatment can lead to recovery. To help you better understand this mental disorder, let’s take a closer look at what dysthymic disorder is and how you can begin working towards management of symptoms and recovery. 

Recognizing Persistent Depressive Disorders

Dysthymic disorder, also known as dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder, is a long-term mood disorder that lasts approximately two years or longer and features low-grade depressive symptoms. These depressive episodes will sometimes alternate with periods of normal mood (no more than two months). Although symptoms present in dysthymic disorder may not be as noticeable or as strong as symptoms associated with major depressive disorder, they can still impact an individual’s ability to lead a happy, healthy lifestyle. But what may this look like if you believe that you have it?

Are You Living With Dysthymic Disorder?

Dysthymic disorder can be hard to diagnose because the individual dealing with it may not immediately notice the symptoms or may simply believe that they are part of their personality. However, persistent depressive disorder and major depressive disorder share many symptoms, including: 

  • Depressed mood, which is often experienced most days during a depressive episode

  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping 

  • Loss of appetite

  • Excessive eating  

  • Low energy and fatigue

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Low self-esteem

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Physical aches and pains

  • Substance abuse to cope

It is important to note that some individuals dealing with the persistent depressive disorder may also be dealing with other mental illnesses, including chronic major depressive disorder. However, unlike major depressive disorder, those who have dysthymic disorder may still be able to feel pleasure and may experience periods of respite from their symptoms.

With that in mind, the next question that you may ask yourself is, how can we treat and better manage the above symptoms of dysthymic disorder?

How to Manage Persistent Depressive Disorder 

As it is with most depressive disorders, the treatment of persistent depressive disorder will often consist of talk therapy and, depending upon the severity, possibly antidepressant medications. Additionally, because persistent depressive disorder is known to have long-lasting symptoms, longer more acute treatments may be required to help you better manage your symptoms both now and down the road.

However, traditional treatment options are not the only way to help you cope with or prevent persistent depressive disorder. There are alternative methods that you can better manage your dysthymic disorder at home to supplement your medical treatment and psychotherapy. Read below for some tips.

Treatment And Management Of Dysthymic Disorder

Managing depressive disorders is relatively similar across the board, whether you are managing persistent depressive disorder or attempting to tackle depressive disorders with stronger symptoms. This means that if you have struggled with depression in the past, many of the things that you may have done to improve your mood may work for persistent depressive disorder as well. These coping mechanisms and  include:

Diet And Exercise

Making sure that you are exercising regularly and eating a more balanced diet can support your health while you are working through the symptoms of persistent depressive disorder. Eating a balanced diet will provide you with valuable nutrients that may balance mood, and exercise comes with several benefits. Avoid junk foods and excessive drinking. Try to avoid any type of substance abuse, such as drinking too much alcohol, as this negatively affects your body as well as brain chemical balance and could lead to a form of drug addiction.

Furthermore, research reports that exercise help relieve symptoms of depression and, in some cases, prevent it. Exercise will help to produce endorphins, brain chemicals that block the perception of pain and increase feelings of well-being. Regular physical activity also provides additional benefits, such as the psychological benefit that comes from being outside and vitamin D from the sun. If you are only to fit a couple of days of exercise in to your schedule, do not worry.  Even a walk outside can help decrease depressive symptoms. 

Socializing And Fun

Connect with those around you and take time to engage in activities that make you happy. Even if you do not feel socializing or feel motivated to do you used to enjoy (which is to be expected when you are dealing with a persistent depressive disorder), the act of simply getting back into the groove of your normal life can improve your mood and help you rediscover your joy. That said, you must know your limits. If you believe that going out or doing a certain activity would only make you feel worse, it is best to do it when you feel like you are better suited for it. Knowing when to push and when to rest is an essential part of recovery.

Relieving Lifestyle Stress

The more stress that you are experiencing, the more likely you are to deal with the negative consequences that come with the stress of a chronic nature. Once you begin looking for ways to manage persistent depressive disorder, consider which areas of your lifestyle are producing the most stress and how you can successfully reduce that stress. 

Consider cutting down on non-essential, stress-producing activities. Look to setting realistic goals that you can reach without overexerting yourself and put off any major decisions until your mood improves. Although stress can be healthy, excessive stress is not beneficial for your mental health, especially when you are dealing with persistent depressive disorder.

Finding The Positive Things In Life

This can often be one of the biggest obstacles for those with persistent depressive disorder. However, with the right support, noticing the amazing things in your life can become easier over time. If you can on your own, try pointing out positive things or things that you are grateful for daily, no matter how small those things may be. This shift in mindset can help you feel a little bit better each day and make it easier for you to alleviate symptoms of persistent depressive disorder.

Build A Support System

Being surrounded by trustworthy, supportive individuals who will act as your safety net when you are struggling with your mental health is arguably one of the most important things to have when you are attempting to overcome a persistent depressive disorder. This support system can consist of close friends and family who are looking to help you as you begin helping yourself. However, your support system should also feature your therapist, which brings us to our next point.

Are You Living With Dysthymic Disorder?

Finding Help for Dysthymic Disorder

The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact in all aspects of life, including the ability to get in-person social support systems and mental health therapies. Even as the pandemic seemed to subside, the repercussions are still being felt globally with many still hesitant to connect in-person. Fortunately, there are online resources that will allow you to see the same high-quality therapists that you would expect to find in a traditional office setting.  Furthermore, research conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic revealed that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy with the added benefits of personal comfort and cost-effectiveness. 

For example, research published in the Journal of Affective Disorders examined the efficacy of iCBT (internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy) used by over 6,000 Australians managing symptoms of depression and anxiety during the pandemic. Participants reported a remarkable reduction in their severity of anxiety and depression symptoms along with decreased overall psychological stress.

 If you need support to help you manage and treat the persistent depressive disorder, consider turning to an online counseling resource such as BetterHelp.


Dysthymic disorder has many different names, including dysthymia. persistent depressive disorder, and long-term low-grade depression. No matter the term chosen, persistent depressive disorders can be just as difficult to deal with as other forms of depression. It is also a form of depression that can be treated and managed over time. If you are looking to recover from persistent depressive disorder, better cope with stressful life events, and lead a happier, healthier life, use the guide above to learn more. This article intended to direct you on how you can begin seeking out treatment and what type of management techniques may help allow you to alleviate your symptoms.

BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that allows individuals to connect with certified therapists online. Whether you are currently unable to see local counselors, or you find it easier to speak with someone on a device instead of going to a physical location to meet face-to-face, BetterHelp is an effective alternative to traditional face-to-face counseling options; in fact, multiple studies utilizing a combination of meta-analysis and systematic review processes have found online therapy to be overall just as effective (sometimes more effective!) than traditional therapy for treating a range of depression and anxiety disorders. All you must do to get started is click on the link above and fill out a short questionnaire to get connected with a licensed counselor.

You Don’t Have To Face Depression Alone. Our Experienced Counselors Can Help.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
You don't have to face depression aloneGet Started