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Ask the Experts

Question:

How is dysthymic disorder different from normal sadness or unhappiness?

Answered by: David Hellerstein

Any sort of normal life loss, or transition, or stress may be accompanied by a few weeks of low mood. This is what psychiatrists call an “adjustment reaction with depressed mood.” Generally things improve after a few weeks to months.

In contrast, the person with DD remains depressed for years, even decades. This is not “normal sadness or unhappiness”—it is an illness!