KidsMD Health Topics

Dysthymia in Children

  • It can be unbearable to imagine your child suffering the feelings of sadness, lethargy and discouragement caused by a depressive disorder like dysthymia—but it’s important to know that there’s hope. As awareness of adult mental health disorders has dramatically increased in recent years, so too has understanding of the many kinds of mood disorders that affect children. 

    While major depression is a well-known illness, dysthymia—also known as dysthymic disorder—is less familiar to most people. Like major depression, dysthymia is a mood disorder.

    The condition:

    • is less severe than major depression, but lasts for longer periods of time
    • may affect a child for as long as one to five years
    • affects about four out of 100 children and adolescents  in any year, but may affect upwards of 20% by the end of adolescence
    • is marked by a persistent feeling of mild depression, but may cause more extreme feelings from time to time
    • is often undiagnosed and if left untreated can lead to more serious mental health and behavioral problems
    • responds very well to psychotherapy and medication when treated by qualified mental health professionals

    How Boston Children's Hospital approaches dysthymia

    Children’s Hospital Boston has long been at the forefront of providing expert, compassionate care to children and adolescents with mental and behavioral health problems. Our Department of Psychiatry  team members are leaders in researching, diagnosing and treating dysthymia and other depressive disorders, as well as:

    Children’s approach to mental health care is evidence-based—which means that our treatments have been tested and proven effective through scientific studies, both here at our hospital and by other leading institutions worldwide. 

    Dysthymia: Reviewed by David R. DeMaso, MD
    © Children’s Hospital Boston; posted in 2011

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