Is An Online Dysthymia Test Reliable?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 28, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you been experiencing changes in your mood and well-being and wondering if you might have depression or dysthymia? If so, you’re not alone. Thousands of people experience symptoms of these conditions and turn to online tests to see if they meet the criteria for a diagnosis. With the proliferation of these tests online, many people are wondering if they’re reliable. Online dysthymia tests are not meant to replace a professional diagnosis, but they may provide some insight into what you’re experiencing. Understanding how to spot a reliable online test and being aware of its limitations can help you use it in a way that’s beneficial rather than potentially harmful. 

What is dysthymia?

Dysthymia is referred to as persistent depressive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Dysthymia is separated from major depressive disorder in that it presents itself a little bit differently. Its symptoms tend to be milder than those of major depressive disorder, but it is still a chronic disorder. It can linger for a long time and create continuous obstacles in a person’s life.

Dysthymia is generally not as commonly known as depression. A lack of awareness about dysthymia may contribute to underdiagnosing or mistreating its symptoms. Some of the most pressing components of dysthymia are typically its long duration, little to no relief from symptoms, and a low-level intensity of symptoms.

What are the symptoms of dysthymia?

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Do you believe you may have dysthymia?

The symptoms of dysthymia are, for the most part, the same symptoms of depression. These include:

  • Intense feelings of sadness or disinterest in most activities, even things that used to make you happy

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Irritability

  • Social avoidance or isolation

  • Feelings of guilt

  • Changes in appetite: eating more or less than usual

  • Changes in weight as a result of appetite differences

  • Sleep disturbances: sleeping more or less than usual

Not all of these symptoms have to be present for an individual to be diagnosed with dysthymia, but a combination of them must be present for at least six months or longer for a person to be diagnosed with dysthymia, and in many cases, symptoms have lasted even longer.

Are online dysthymia tests reliable?

Although online dysthymia tests are not reliable sources for an official diagnosis, they can still have a place in pursuing appropriate care when used correctly. Still, many do not take all of the possible factors into account to deliver a robust and well-informed opinion. For this reason, they’re not a legitimate replacement for a professional evaluation.

Instead, online tests can be useful tools for learning more about the symptoms you are experiencing. They can also provide some validation for your symptoms by helping you understand whether something may legitimately be amiss. They often use known depression and dysthymia symptoms in their lines of questioning to deliver a spectrum of answers that can have some truth to them.

When taking an online quiz asking questions about mental illness symptoms, you might consider discussing the questions and results with a licensed mental health professional.

What should dysthymia tests be used for?

Online dysthymia tests should generally function as a reference point or a starting point for further investigation of symptoms. This can make quizzes ideal for people who have just begun to notice symptoms of major depression or dysthymia. Quizzes can be used to narrow your focus to determine what your symptoms most closely mimic.

Quizzes can also be useful to help you gather your thoughts. If, for instance, you are taking a quiz asking questions about depression and you find yourself identifying with the questions, the quiz may be a useful resource. This may be particularly true of lesser-known symptoms of depression and dysthymia, such as eating changes, irritability, and difficulty focusing. When a quiz pulls all of the possible symptoms together and places them in a single space, you might be able to obtain a clearer picture of your own experiences that you can discuss with a licensed therapist.

What are the next steps?

If an online quiz indicates that you are at high risk for dysthymia or are displaying significant dysthymia symptoms, the next step to take is likely to reach out for help. This can look different for everyone. Searching for assistance can mean:

  • Turning to a trusted friend or mentor. Seeking help from your closest loved ones can be a simple but important step. Reaching out to let someone you trust know that you suspect you are having symptoms of dysthymia may help you find moral support as you seek out professional mental health assistance.

  • Reaching out to a licensed mental health professional. Reaching out to a mental health professional directly can be the most logical next step for people looking for a diagnosis.

  • Checking in with support groups. Support groups can offer valuable resources for someone just beginning to seek information and assistance for depressive symptoms. Although these groups should not necessarily be seen as an alternative to therapy or even an authoritative source of information, support groups can help provide some guidance as to what treatment might involve and how soon you can expect to notice positive changes.

Other online resources for dysthymia support

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Online dysthymia tests should not be mistaken for legitimate sources of diagnosis. Instead, these tests are typically designed to offer some guidance regarding symptoms and their meaning. If you’d like to unpack the results of an online test or seek further assistance in determining what may be causing your symptoms, it may be best to turn to a licensed therapist.

Resources like online therapy can be just as accessible as an online test, but online therapy can provide you with more definitive answers and support that make sense for you. Because you can attend sessions from the comfort of your own home, online therapy can help you save the time and money you might typically spend commuting to and from in-person appointments. This may also be more comfortable if your symptoms make it difficult to leave home at times.

Online therapy has also been shown to be effective for a number of mental health challenges. One recent review of several studies analyzing the benefits of online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) found it to be more effective than in-person CBT for reducing symptoms of depression. It also discovered that online CBT can be more cost-effective than in-office therapy. 

With online therapy at BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist with experience treating dysthymia and depression. You can communicate with your therapist via audio and video chat at a time that works for you. Also, if you experience symptoms in between sessions, you can reach out to your therapist 24/7 via in-app messaging, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.

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Do you believe you may have dysthymia?

Takeaway

Online quizzes should generally not be the sole source of information regarding mental health and mental illness, but they can be a useful jumping-off point for individuals who have symptoms of dysthymia. Speaking with a mental health professional, particularly a therapist, can likely help you determine which steps you might need to take to receive a diagnosis and get the support you may need.

If you think you’re experiencing dysthymia or depression, you don’t have to face it alone. Take the first step to getting a reliable assessment and reach out to BetterHelp today.

Tests can bring up many emotions
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