Symptoms of major depressive disorder include feelings of sadness and emptiness, difficulties getting out of bed, loss of appetite, excessive feelings of guilt, difficulties concentrating, and suicidal thoughts or plans. Major depression is diagnosed when symptoms are present for at least two weeks, have a sudden onset and are significant enough to impact daily functioning.
Symptoms of dysthymia include feelings of hopelessness; sleeping and eating too much or too little; fatigue; poor concentration; and low self-esteem. These symptoms cause distress but are not as severe as the symptoms of major depression. Dysthymia is a long-term condition and is diagnosed when these symptoms are present nearly every day during a period of two years.
The symptoms of major depressive disorder and dysthymia are very similar. Both disorders are characterized by sad mood, loss of pleasure and changes in appetite, sleep and energy. Both disorders can be treated successfully with medication and/or counseling.
Differences between major depressive disorder and dysthymia are characterized by levels of severity, duration and persistence. For example, the change in mood in major depression occurs nearly every day during a period of two weeks, whereas in dysthymia, the mood disturbance occurs more days than not during a two-year period. Dysthymia may be reported less than major depression, as its symptoms are less severe. Technically, dysthymia is a pervasive “low level” depression that lasts a long time – often a few years. major Depressive disorder is a discrete episode of severe depression. When it is gone, the patient is in “remission,” and feels completely normal. Recurrent major depressive disorder comprises discrete periods of major depression that come and go, while major depressive disorder in partial remission is a severe discrete episode that never completely gets better. How does that feel any differently than dysthymia, you might ask? It doesn’t. These terms are descriptions, not different diseases.