Dysthymic disorder: forlorn and overlooked?
This ongoing column is dedicated to the challenging clinical interface between psychiatry and primary care-two fields that are inexorably linked.Dysthymic disorder is a smoldering mood disturbance characterized by a long duration (at least two years in adults) as well as transient periods of normal mood. The disorder is fairly common in the US general population (3-6%) as well as in primary care (7%) and mental health settings (up to one-third of psychiatric outpatients). While the etiology of dysthymia remains unknown, there appears to be a genetic susceptibility, which may manifest in the presence of various psychosocial stressors. While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders diagnostic criteria are fairly clear, the disorder can be easily under-recognized for a variety of reasons. Treatment may include pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy, although the overall treatment course is oftentimes characterized by protracted symptoms and relapses.