What is Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)?
Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), formerly known as dysthymia, is a psychological disorder where an individual experiences a depressed mood most of the day for more days than not. In PDD, however, the depressed mood is less severe. The other significant difference between depression and PDD is that dysthymia lasts for at least two years.
Like Depression, individuals with PDD also experience the following symptoms:
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Excessive sleep or lack of sleep
- Increased fatigue or decreased energy
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of hopelessness, guilt or worthlessness
Over the two year period, a person with PDD does not experience a period of more than two months without their symptoms.
What is the difference between depression and dysthymia?
Think of depression as an intense period of deep sadness for a specific amount of time. Someone with depression may experience severe symptoms of sadness, lack of energy, confusion and lack of sleep for most of the day every day for a few weeks, or a month or even a year. But that period will pass.
Persistent depressive disorder is an overall feeling of sadness that may not be as intense as depression but tends to last longer. PDD lasts for two years and is present for more days than it is not. It is also possible to have PDD and have a major depressive episode at the same time. When PDD and Depression co-occur, it is often referred to as double depression.
I have depression or dysthymia; how do I treat it?
There are multiple ways to treat depression or dysthymia. The first consideration is whether you would like to seek medication or talk therapy. A more conservative approach would be to try therapy first and if that doesn’t work, to find a psychiatrist to discuss medication. Most research shows that the most effective mode of treatment for depression or dysthymia is a combination of medication and talk therapy. Here is a video that explores the decision between medicine and therapy.
Alternative treatments, such as mindfulness, can also be helpful in conjunction with therapy/medication. Mindful meditation can be a great way to become present and aware in the moment and process one’s own emotions. Here are some apps that focus on mindful meditation and other useful tips.
Treatment considerations may be different for depression and dysthymia depending on your presenting symptoms. If it is a more intense depressive episode, therapy may focus on getting you out of bed and doing activities. If it is a longer less severe depression, treatment may focus on cognitive or big picture factors to your depression.