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Dysthymia is a persistent depressive disorder. If you have dysthymia, you will experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and low self-esteem. You may also lack interest in doing activities and have trouble with a low or negative mood.

While dysthymia may sound like depression, it is different. The way it is different than a Major Depressive Disorder is that dysthymia lasts longer. For example, it can last for at least two years in adults and one year in children. Major depression can be diagnosed if you have symptoms for two weeks.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 1.5% of adults in the United States experience dysthymia in any given year. This means millions of people are affected by this chronic mood disorder.

Because dysthymia lasts so long, it can have a significant impact on your relationships and social life. It can also impact your physical health and your ability to work. If you can’t work for more than 12 months, then you should apply for SSD benefits.

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The symptoms of dysthymia vary from person to person. However, the symptoms usually include:

  1. Chronic low mood: Feeling sad or hopeless most of the time.
  2. Low self-esteem: Feelings of worthlessness or self-criticism.
  3. Loss of interest: Decreased interest in most activities, including hobbies that you used to love. This includes not wanting to interact with others.
  4. Fatigue: Feeling tired and feeling physically weak.
  5. Poor concentration: Problems focusing on tasks, making decisions, and remembering.
  6. Changes in appetite or weight: Significant weight loss or gain due to changes in appetite.
  7. Sleep problems: Difficulty falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much.
  8. Feelings of doom: Pessimism about the future or a sense that things will never get better.
  9. Social withdrawal: Avoiding other people and isolating oneself from others.
  10. Irritability: Feeling angry, frustrated, or moody.

These symptoms are very similar to those of depression. However, you can have dysthymia with only two of these symptoms, but the symptoms will last two years. A diagnosis of depression requires you to have at least five of the above symptoms.


Treatments for dysthymia usually includes talk therapy with a counselor and medications. Combining these two methods of treatment is more effective than either treatment by itself.  Your doctor might also recommend changes in your lifestyle. Particularly, if you are not exercising regularly. Treatment options include:

  1. Talk Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective for treating dysthymia. It focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to low mood. Other types of therapy, such as interpersonal therapy may also be beneficial.
  2. Medication: Medications are commonly prescribed to manage the symptoms of dysthymia. These medications help regulate mood by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain.
  3. Combination Therapy: In some cases, a combination of therapy and medication may be more effective than either treatment alone. This approach addresses both the psychological and biological aspects of dysthymia.
  4. Lifestyle Changes: Adopting healthy lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, a good diet, and getting enough sleep, can help your therapy and medication work better.
  5. Support Groups: Joining dysthymia support groups can provide you with a sense of community. You can share your symptoms with others who are having the same experiences.


To determine whether you have a severe medical condition, the SSA will look at your medical record for signs  of dysthymia. Severe symptoms will have significantly affected your daily routine. Also, they will have impaired your ability to get to work on time and attend work consistently. If you have missed work or been written up for mistakes, then it could be due to dysthymia.

One of the requirements for a dysthymia diagnosis is that you have symptoms for at least two years. If you have the diagnosis, then it is clear that you met SSA’s rule that your symptoms have lasted for over one year. However, you must also show that your dysthymia symptoms prevent you from working for that length of time too. You should be prepared to submit employment records to the SSA.

For example, you can submit records which show you were late to work. You can also submit work records that show you were repeatedly absent. If you filed for FMLA benefits and took leave from work, then you should submit those records too. Additionally, if you were fired from your job, then you should submit your employer’s letter of termination. That letter should contain the reasons you were terminated.


You can apply for Social Security benefits in person at your local SSA office. Also, you can apply for benefits over the phone or online at the Social Security website. You can apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in the same way. Whether you apply online or in person make sure you complete your application. The SSA deals with thousands of cases on a daily basis. If there are errors in your application, then it will delay your case.


Qualifying for SSD benefits means your dysthymia prevents you from working at all jobs. The SSA uses a five step review process to determine if they can pay you benefits. Below, you can find an explanation as to each type of benefit for which you can apply:

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI):  

SSDI benefits are for those who can no longer work due to a severe medical condition. The amount of money you receive from SSDI benefits is based on the taxes you paid during your working years. To qualify for SSDI, you must have earned enough “work credits” to qualify. Learn more about work credits and SSD benefits.

A work credit is an amount of taxable income. You can earn up to 4 work credits per year. The amount of work credits you will need depends on how old you are when you apply. If you haven’t earned enough work credits at the time you apply, then you will only be able to file for SSI benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI):  

SSI is a needs based benefit. It is for only those people with little to no income, such as children and the elderly. Anyone who makes more than a certain amount of money per month cannot receive SSI benefits. The SSA counts the income and assets of those who live with you, such as a spouse.

If you have a spouse who earns $4000 a month, then that income will disqualify you from getting SSI benefits. The same rule applies if you are living with a boyfriend and he is paying your bills. Also, the same rule applies if you are living with your common law wife and she is paying your bills. You cannot get SSI benefits, no matter how severe your medical condition, if you do not meet the income and asset rules for SSI.


While there is no listing for dysthymia, there is a listing for depression. The SSA listing for depression is listing 12.04. There are three parts to the listing. In order to meet the listing, you must have part A and B or part A and C.

12.04 Depressive, bipolar and related disorders, satisfied by A and B, or A and C:

  1. Medical records that document the symptoms in paragraph 1 or 2:
    1. Depressive disorder with five or more of the following:
      1. Depressed mood;
      2. Diminished interest in almost all activities;
      3. Appetite disturbance with change in weight;
      4. Sleep disturbance;
      5. Observable psychomotor agitation or retardation;
      6. Decreased energy;
      7. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness;
      8. Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or
      9. Thoughts of death or suicide.
    2. Bipolar disorder with three or more of the following:
      1. Pressured speech;
      2. Flight of ideas;
      3. Inflated self esteem;
      4. Decreased need for sleep;
      5. Distractibility;
      6. Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized; or
      7. Increase in goal directed activity or psychomotor agitation.



  1. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental function:
    1. Understand, remember, or apply information.
    2. Interact with others.
    3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace.
    4. Adapt or manage oneself.


  1. Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the condition over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
    1. Medical treatment, mental health therapy, or a highly structured setting that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental condition; and
    2. Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life.

Meeting listing 12.04 requires you to prove the above. However, the symptoms under Part B can be broken apart into single elements. For example, you would meet the Part B criteria if you had an extreme limit in the ability to “remember.” Learn more about using Part B to win mental health benefits.

The most important part of the listing for dysthymia is to prove Part C. Section C is where the SSA acknowledges that depressive symptoms can last for 2 years. The same section also shows that your symptoms make it difficult adapt to changes. And, that you may need significant therapy and treatment to deal with your mental condition. If that is the case for you, then your dysthymia may meet or equal listing 12.04 under Part C.


To win benefits, you must show your symptoms meet the rules under Part B and/or C. You can learn more about how the Part B mental rules wins benefits. There are times where proving Part C is easier than proving Part B. This is particularly true if you are living in a “highly structured setting.” Learn more about the importance of medical evidence in proving your case for benefits.

For example, if you live in a state mental hospital that provides mental treatment, then you live in a controlled setting. If leaving that setting would make your mental symptoms worse, then you are probably meet the Part C rules. Therefore, you should be paid benefits.

In order to prove you should be paid benefits for dysthymia, your medical record will contain the following:

  • progress notes showing that you are going to a doctor and therapist on a regular basis
  • a statement from your doctor about your symptoms
  • comments about your medications and whether they are working
  • any mental status exams that discuss your symptoms, treatment, and response to treatment

You need to work closely with your mental health doctor and counselor. The better relationship you have with your doctor, the more likely it is that your doctor will support your claim for SSD benefits.


The SSA may not believe that your symptoms meet listing 12.04. Therefore, they wil look at your residual functional capacity to see if it impacts your ability to work.

The RFC is the finding that defines what you can do in a work setting. It is how the SSA looks at your limits after taking into account all of your dysthymia symptoms. However, your RFC includes both your physical and mental limits. The SSA tries to define your ability to sit, stand, walk, and lift, during the course of an 8 hour workday. Likewise, the SSA will include your ability to carry, pull, and push. Find out more about how the SSA defines work.

However, your RFC also includes your mental symptoms. If you have sadness or trouble focusing, then that should be part of your RFC. Despite treatment, if your mental symptoms continue, then your records will show why you cannot work.

For example, the medical record will state that you cannot follow instructions or finish tasks. It might also state your physical limits create dysthymia symptoms. Your treatment records are the most important evidence of your medical condition. Therefore, you need treatment and records from a doctor and counselor to prove your RFC.

If you don’t have health insurance, then go to the free and low cost mental health sources on this website. You can find the treatment you need and you can afford it too.


You do not need to try to win SSD benefits on your own. Our law firm can help file your SSD application. Also, we can help you file an appeal after every SSA denial. That way, you can focus on your health. Our attorneys and staff can:

If you file your application for benefits online at Social Security’s website, then you have 6 months to complete it. However, if you have a medical condition that automatically wins SSD benefits, you should not wait to finish your application. Once you submit your online application, the SSA mails you an application summary. You must sign the summary and mail it back.

Additionally, once you receive a denial from the SSA, you have 60 days to file an appeal. You must meet the time limit set by the SSA. If you do not, then you will have to start the process over again. That means you will lose any benefits you could receive on a prior application.


If you need help filing for benefits for dysthymia, then call the best SSD law firm, Cannon Disability Law. Also, if you need help finding free or low cost medical care, then use our list of free and low cost resources. Taking the first step by calling us. That is all you need to do to begin your journey to winning benefits. Just reach out to our legal team.

Our legal team wants to help you. We offer a free review of your case. What that means is that you can call us and explain your situation. Next, we will look at the merits of your case for free. Then, we will let you know if you have a chance to win benefits. We will be asking you if are getting medical treatment. Be prepared to tell us the name, address, and phone number of all of your treating providers.

Hire us. We know how to prove your case to the SSA. Our legal team prepares you for success. During your case, we collect your medical records. All you have to do is get treatment from your doctor. Medical records from your treating sources prove you deserve benefits.


In 30 years, we have won over 20,000 SSDI and SSI cases. If you want to win SSD benefits, then hire an attorney with the experience to win your case. Also, you need a lawyer to prove to the SSA that you should be paid SSD benefits under their rules.

If you want to learn more about our law firm, then read our About Us page. For instance, Andria Summers is can help you with your Medicare plan. She has also won thousands of SSD cases.

Dianna Cannon has been helping clients win benefits for thirty years. Brett Bunkall also has years of legal experience helping people obtain their SSI and SSD benefits. We are experts. Our legal team has the experience you need to win your benefits.

We have won over $100 million in ongoing and past due SSDI benefits for our clients. You need an attorney, because over time it has become more difficult to win Social Security benefits. Also, the SSA medical rules are harder to meet. But, we know you need benefits to replace your income. We want to win your case too. Contact us today for your free review of your case.

Let us help you win SSDI and SSI benefits for dysthymia. Put our legal experience to work for you.

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