What is persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)?

Persistent depressive disorder is also known as dysthymia or PDD. This is a form of depression. The symptoms aren't as severe, but they last a longer time than other kinds of depression. People with this condition might feel sad and hopeless. They may be unable to find joy in things they once loved. The symptoms of PDD can last for years and cause problems in relationships, work and school.

Causes of PDD

Doctors aren't sure exactly what causes PDD. It might be a combination of factors that contribute to whether or not you develop the condition. These include:

  • Genetics
  • Brain trauma
  • Very stressful or traumatic experience
  • Personal history of other mental illness

Risk factors for PDD

If you have a chemical imbalance in your brain or other mental health condition, you're more likely to develop this condition. Also, if you've had a stressful life event, like a financial problem or a death of someone close, you're at risk. Finally, people with certain personality traits, like low self-esteem, may be more likely to have PDD.

Symptoms of PDD

The most noticeable symptom of PDD is a dark, sad mood. It can feel like a shadow over you for most of the day, almost every day of the week. It lasts at least two years. Your work and your relationships may be impacted by this sad state.

Other symptoms of PDD include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Avoiding social activities
  • Finding it hard to pay attention
  • Problems with sleep, even though you're always tired
  • Eating issues – either having a poor appetite or eating all the time

Diagnosis of PDD

The difficult thing about diagnosing this condition is that it usually lasts for so long. You may just think this is the way life is. But if you have any of the symptoms of PDD, see your doctor right away. Talk with your doctor about what's going on. They'll be able to recommend you to a trained mental health professional. This therapist diagnoses your condition by using a checklist of specific symptoms. Adults need to feel this way for two or more years to have a PDD diagnosis.

Children and teens also get PDD. They need to have symptoms nearly every day for at least a year to be diagnosed.

Treatments for PDD

Although it may seem hopeless for someone with this condition, successful treatment is possible. Usually, a trained mental health professional can recommend a mix of talk therapy and medication.

Medication can help, depending on the severity and kinds of symptoms you have. Some people benefit from antidepressants. Others improve their symptoms with drugs that help change the chemicals in their brains. It may take time for your doctor to find the right medication and dosage for you. It can take weeks for the medication to work. Always follow your doctor's recommendations.

Talk therapy is also an important part of the treatment process for this condition. Meeting regularly with a therapist may help you handle any crisis that appears in your life. You can figure out how to change your negative thoughts into positive ones. You can create goals for your life. With time, you can learn skills to cope and improve your relationships.

PDD doesn't happen overnight. So, it can also take time for treatment to be effective. Always follow your psychiatrist's recommendations. Don't stop taking medication without first talking with your doctor.

Recovery from PDD

While you're going through treatment for this condition, it's important to take care of yourself. Try a healthy diet and exercise. Don't drink alcohol or use illicit drugs. When you start to feel better, don't stop your treatment. Continue taking your prescriptions and attending meetings with your therapist until your doctor says otherwise.