Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymic Disorder)
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What is persistent depressive disorder?
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD, formerly known as dysthymia, or Dysthymic Disorder) is a type of depression that lasts for at least 2 years. Some people suffer from PDD for many years. Their depression is usually mild or moderate, rather than severe. Most people who have PDD can’t tell for sure when they first became depressed.
The main symptom of PDD is a sad, low, or dark mood on most days. This lasts for at least 2 years. Children and teens with PDD can feel irritable instead of depressed. Their symptoms last for at least 1 year.
Other symptoms that happen much of the time include:
- poor appetite or overeating
- difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- low self-esteem
- poor concentration
- low energy
- feelings of hopelessness.
People who have PDD may have periods of normal mood that can last up to 2 months. Family members and friends may not even know that their loved one is depressed. This type of depression is mild, but it may be difficult for a person to function at home, school, or work.
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
What causes dysthymic disorder?
No one knows for sure what causes PDD. It may be related to some changes in the brain that involve a chemical called serotonin (say: seer-uh-tone-in). Serotonin helps your brain handle emotions and make judgments. Other medical problems and ongoing life stress may also play a role.
You may be at higher risk of developing PDD if you are a woman. It also tends to run in families. If a family member has it or another type of depression, you could be more likely to get it.
DIAGNOSIS & TESTS
How is PDD diagnosed?
If you think you have PDD, discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will ask you questions to find out if you have depression and, if so, to identify the type of depression you have. Your healthcare provider may ask you questions about your health and your symptoms, such as how well you’re sleeping, if you feel tired a lot, and if you have trouble concentrating. Your healthcare provider will also consider medical reasons that may cause you to feel depressed, such as problems with your thyroid or a certain medicine you may be taking.
What is the treatment for PDD?
PDD can be treated with an antidepressant medicine. This type of drug helps relieve depression. Antidepressants don’t cause people to feel “high,” and they are not habit-forming.
It may take a number of weeks, or even several months, before you and your healthcare provider know whether an antidepressant is helping you. It is important for you to take the medicine exactly as your healthcare provider tells you. If the antidepressant helps you feel better, you may need to take this medicine for several years. You should continue to take the medicine, even if you begin to feel better. If you stop taking the medicine, you may get depressed again.
Sometimes there are side effects from stopping antidepressant medicine suddenly. If you want to stop taking your medicine, contact your healthcare provider first. Your healthcare provider can help you avoid side effects from stopping your medicine too quickly.
Should I see a counselor too?
Sometimes, in addition to taking an antidepressant, patients find that counseling can help them deal with specific problems. Many healthcare providers believe that combining therapy with medication is the most effective way to treat PDD.
What can I do to help myself feel better?
Talking to your healthcare provider about how you’re feeling and getting treatment for PDD are the first steps to feeling better. The following may also help.
- Find activities that make you feel good or help you feel a sense of accomplishment. For example, go to a movie, take a drive on a pleasant day, go to a ball game or work in the garden. Doing something nice for someone else can also help.
- Eat regular, well-balanced, healthy meals.
- Avoid abusing drugs and alcohol. They can make depression worse.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise can improve your mood. Exercising 4 to 6 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes each time is a good goal.