Dysthymia, or PDD, is a chronic form of depression that may cause feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy, or pessimism for years.
Living with depression can be challenging. While most depressive episodes can last for several days or weeks before you find relief, one type of depression causes symptoms that persist for years.
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) is a low-grade form of depression with episodes that continue for years. Formerly known as dysthymia, PDD causes feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Because these feelings are near-constant, you may chalk them up to being a part of who you are instead of symptoms of a severe disorder.
Knowing what dysthymia is will help you determine whether you or someone you love has the condition. More important, it’s essential to understand how PDD makes you feel.
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) is a type of chronic depression that’s, well, persistent. While other types of depression can cause episodes that go on for days, weeks, or sometimes months before resolving, PDD symptoms generally last for 2 or more years.
Experts aren’t sure what exactly causes PDD, but many believe it may be the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain or triggered by stress brought on by environmental factors, genetics, or trauma.
Dysthymia can affect your physical and mental well-being and cause symptoms such as:
- low or “down” mood
- difficulty focusing
- feelings of hopelessness
- lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- changes in appetite
- sleep problems
- low energy levels
- other mental health disorders
These symptoms are usually mild, so many people ignore them or chalk them up to feeling “down in the dumps.”
Also, because they’re long lasting, some folks view them as a regular part of their lives and not something that warrants treatment. This can cause them to not seek professional support, and the condition often goes undiagnosed.
Living with dysthymia can be challenging in ways different from living with other forms of depression. This is not only because of how long episodes last but also because it can be easy to accept them as typical parts of your life.
For instance, you may be more aware of being in a depressed state when you’re in a major depressive episode. This awareness often doesn’t exist with PDD. Because symptoms can stay with you for years, they can start to feel like part of your usual day-to-day experience rather than signs of a serious condition.
People with PDD often describe it as a “down in the dumps” feeling that may make them come across as “mopey” or even “whiny” to others. However, the condition goes beyond this, affecting those with it at their core.
They may feel a strong sense of hopelessness or pessimism as if nothing can go right for them. This can cause them to question how others can face the world with optimism.
PDD can also cause you to lose interest in things or activities — even those you once enjoyed. You may find that you simply find no joy in them or that you don’t believe that you’re worthy of them. When this sense of inadequacy creeps in, your self-esteem can also take a hit.
Your productivity and energy levels may also be affected by dysthymia. Some folks with the disorder find it difficult to concentrate or simply lack the energy to complete tasks.
Other conditions may occur alongside PDD. The most common are:
- major depressive disorder (MDD)
- substance use disorder
- personality disorders
- somatoform disorders (when you experience bodily symptoms that cannot be explained by a medical or neurological diagnosis)
How long does dysthymia last?
Bouts of dysthymia can last for years at a time.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), PDD is diagnosed when a person has experienced a depressive mood for at least 2 years — without a break in symptoms that lasts more than 2 months.
What happens if dysthymia is left untreated?
There are several treatment options for PDD. Your doctor may recommend a mix of medication, psychotherapy, or lifestyle changes to relieve symptoms. Leaving dysthymia untreated, however, can negatively affect you and your life.
Not only can living in a chronic state of depression leave you in a constant state of sadness or hopelessness, but these feelings can impact how you relate to others.
It can become difficult to build or maintain healthy relationships, and you may find yourself pushing others away when you want to bring them closer. Or you might not feel that you’re worthy of acceptance from others because you don’t fully accept yourself due to your depression.
PDD can also increase your chances of developing other mental health or mood conditions, such as major depressive, anxiety, or somatoform disorders.
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) — or dysthymia, as it was once commonly called — is a chronic form of depression where symptoms last for 2 or more years. It can make you feel sad, hopeless, or pessimistic. It can also negatively impact your self-esteem and cause you to lose interest in things you once enjoyed.
When left untreated, PDD can affect your relationships with others and yourself. You may find it difficult to start or maintain bonds, or you may not feel that you’re worthy of connecting with the people in your life.
PDD can be challenging to live with, but there are ways to manage it.
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression (whether it be dysthymia or other forms), you may want to consider seeking support from a mental health professional. They can provide a diagnosis and recommend treatment options, such as medication, psychotherapy, or lifestyle changes.
Want to learn more about depression? Psych Central’s Depression Resource Hub can help.