Although up to 50% of people with dysthymia start symptoms before the age of 25, many go years without treatment as they see their condition as part of life. The greatest risk for dysthymia, however, is that it can lead to full-blown depression. About 40% of dysthymia sufferers eventually have a major depressive episode, although some studies have reported a lifetime risk of as high as 77% for this group of sufferers.
This serious condition is characterised by interference in normal daily functioning, marked changes in sleeping patterns and appetite; intense feelings of sadness, shame and despair; and thoughts of death and suicide. Up to 40% of persons with major depression also suffer from dysthymia, this is referred to as double depression.
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD