Phenomenology and comorbidity of dysthymic disorder in 100 consecutively referred children and adolescents: Beyond DSM-IV

Gabriele Masi, Stefania Millepiedi, Maria Mucci, Rosa Rita Pascale, Giulio Perugi, Hagop S. Akiskal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Diagnostic criteria and nosological boundaries of juvenile dysthymic disorder (DD) are under-researched. Two different sets of diagnostic criteria are still discussed in the DSM-IV, the first giving major weight to somatic and vegetative symptoms and the second, included in the appendix, to more affective and cognitive symptoms. The aim of this study was to describe prototypical symptomatology and comorbidity of DD, according to DSM-IV criteria, in a consecutive series of referred children and adolescents, as a function of age and sex. Method: One hundred inpatients and outpatients (36 children and 64 adolescents, 57 males, 43 females, age range 7 to 18 years, mean age 13.3 years) received a diagnosis of DD without comorbid major depressive disorder (MDD), using historical information, the Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents-Revised (DICA-R), and symptoms ratings according to the DSM-IV criteria. Results: Irritability, low self-esteem, fatigue or loss of energy, depressed mood, guilt, concentration difficulties, anhedonia, and hopelessness were present in more than 50% of subjects. Differences in symptomatic profile between male and female patients were not significant. Anxiety disorders were commonly comorbid with DD, mainly generalized anxiety disorder, simple phobias, and in prepuberal children, separation anxiety disorder. Externalizing disorders were reported in 35% of the patients, with higher prevalence in male patients. Adolescents showed more suicidal thoughts and anhedonia than children. Conclusions: The clinical picture of early-onset DD we found, based entirely on a pure sample without current and past MDD, is not totally congruent with the diagnostic criteria according to DSM-IV. A more precise definition of the clinical picture may help early diagnosis and prevention of superimposed mental disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-105
Number of pages7
JournalCanadian Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2003


  • Adolescents
  • Children
  • Depression
  • DSM-IV
  • Dysthymic disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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