Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) is a form of chronic depression. The term combines two earlier diagnoses — dysthymia and chronic major depressive disorder.
Like other types of depression, people with PDD may experience feelings of deep sadness and hopelessness. While these symptoms are present in all forms of depression, in PDD they may persist for many years.
The constant nature of these symptoms means that the condition may interfere with school, work, and personal relationships. However, a combination of medication and therapy can be effective in treating PDD.
Many doctors use the symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose PDD. This manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association. The PDD symptoms listed in the DSM-5 include:
- depression almost every day for most of the day
- having a poor appetite or overeating
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- low energy or fatigue
- low self-esteem
- poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
- feelings of hopelessness
Depression is common — anyone can experience it at any time.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that
In addition, around
The cause of PDD isn’t known. Certain factors may contribute to the development of the condition. These include:
- imbalances in brain circuitry
- stressful or traumatic life events, such as the loss of a loved one or financial problems
- physical brain trauma, such as a concussion
PDD is a complex mood disorder. While researchers do not fully understand the exact causes of PDD, some biological and circumstantial factors can increase your risk of developing the disorder.
These can include but are not limited to:
- a family history of the condition
- a history of other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or bipolar disorder
- chronic physical illness, such as heart disease or diabetes
- drug use
To make an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will first perform a physical examination. They will also order blood tests or other laboratory tests to rule out possible medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
If your doctor believes you have PDD, they’ll likely refer you to a mental health professional for further evaluation and treatment.
For a diagnosis, adults must have symptoms of PDD nearly every day for
Your doctor will ask you certain questions to assess your current mental and emotional state. It’s important to be honest with your doctor about your symptoms. Your responses will help them determine whether you have PDD or another type of mental health condition.
Treatment for PDD typically consists of medication and psychotherapy.
Medical professionals may recommend various types of antidepressants to treat PDD, including:
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft)
- tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), such as amitriptyline (Elavil) and amoxapine (Asendin)
- serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) and duloxetine (Cymbalta)
You may need to try different medications and dosages to find an effective solution for your specific situation. This requires patience, as many medications take several weeks to take full effect.
Talk with your doctor if you continue to have concerns about your medication. Your doctor may suggest changing dosage or medication.
Never stop taking your medication as directed without speaking with your doctor first. Stopping treatment suddenly or missing several doses may cause withdrawal-like symptoms and make depressive symptoms worse.
A combination of medication and psychotherapy is the
Psychotherapy, which may be referred to as talk therapy, typically involves sessions with a mental health professional. These can happen either in person or remotely via phone or video calls. You may also participate in group sessions.
CBT focuses on your actions and behaviors in addition to your thoughts and emotions. In CBT, you will work to identify and deal with what is causing your depression. This will include talking with mental health professionals to help you accept your symptoms and establish safe coping habits for PDD.
This form of therapy can not only help you in the short term but may also
Working with a therapist can help you learn how to:
- express your thoughts and feelings in a healthy way
- cope with your emotions
- adjust to a life challenge or crisis
- identify thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that trigger or aggravate symptoms
- replace negative beliefs with positive ones
- regain a sense of satisfaction and control in your life
- set realistic goals for yourself
PDD is a long-lasting condition, so it’s important to participate actively in your treatment plan. Making certain lifestyle adjustments can complement medical treatments and help ease symptoms.
Lifestyle changes that may help alongside your prescribed treatment plan include:
Since PDD is a chronic condition, some people may experience symptoms for many years.
However, identifying symptoms and seeking help is a crucial first step to improving the long-term outlook for people with PDD.
Research shows that a
Alongside these treatments, lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthful diet and exercising regularly, may also help you manage PDD and improve your long-term outlook.