It’s okay to feel down, moody, or tired after an exhausting week at work. But if those feelings persist daily and last for years, you may be experiencing symptoms of a kind of mood disorder known as persistent depressive disorder. It affects millions in the U.S., but its symptoms are treatable.
According to a U.S. government survey, persistent depressive disorder affects millions. The latest figures:
- Prevalence of persistent depressive disorder among U.S. adults between 45 and 59 years-old is 2.3%, 30–44-year-olds (1.7%), 18–29-year-olds (1.1%), and 60 or older (.5%).
- About 1.5% of U.S. adults are affected in any year, with about 2.5% having it at some time in their lives.
- Females (1.9%) are more susceptible than males (1%).
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE PERSISTENT DEPRESSIVE DISORDER?
Dysthymia is a weaker, but long-term kind of depression. It’s also known as persistent depressive disorder. People experiencing this condition may also suffer from attacks of major depression at times.
“Depression is a mood disorder that involves your body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way you eat and sleep, think about things, and feel about yourself. It’s not the same as being unhappy or in a ‘blue’ mood. It’s not a sign of weakness or something that can be willed or wished away. People with depression can’t ‘snap out of it’ and get better. Treatment is key to recovery.”
- Lack of interest in daily pursuits
- Sadness, emptiness, or low feelings
- Fatigue and low energy
- Poor self-esteem, self-criticism, or feeling incompetent
- Problems thinking and decision making
- Irritability or extreme anger
- Less activity, success, and productivity
- Avoiding social activities
- Feeling guilty or worrying over past events
- Low appetite, poor eating habits
- Problems sleeping
The disorder often begins in childhood, the teenage years, or young adult life and is chronic in nature. Factors may boost the risk of developing or triggering it, including:
- Having a blood relative with major depressive disorder or other mood disorders
- Traumatic or stressful events, like losing a loved one or financial insecurity
- Certain negativity-based personality traits, like poor self-esteem, over-dependence, being self-critical, or pessimism
- You have a history of another mental disorder, like a personality disorder
What causes persistent depressive disorder?
No one is certain of the exact cause. The disorder could be related to some differences in the human brain that include a chemical called serotonin. People with low levels of serotonin may have trouble handling emotions and making decisions, key functions driven by what happens in your brain. Persistent depressive disorder may also be triggered by another medical problem or ongoing life stressors. These include biological, genetic, environmental, and psychological influencers. Chronic stress and trauma may also be linked to the condition.
How is it diagnosed?
Depression often co-occurs with other ailments, like heart disease or cancer. It could also crop up with substance abuse or anxiety problems. Often, people with persistent depressive disorder become used to its mild depressive symptoms and don’t think they need help. However, early diagnosis and treatment is key to recovery.
A diagnosis may be made following a thorough psychiatric evaluation and medical exam performed by a qualified medical doctor or mental health professional. A medical exam seeks to identify or rule out an underlying condition that causes the symptoms, while a psychiatric assessment focuses on thoughts, feelings, behavior, and personal and family history of mental illness. In either case, your medical provider will compare your depression symptoms with criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Many factors contribute to how a medical doctor or mental health provider treats someone who’s experiencing persistent depressive disorder or another mental illness. Factors like your age, gender, personal and family history of mental illness, and overall health inform the decision-making process.
The most widespread form of treatment is some form of psychotherapy. “This is most often cognitive behavioral or interpersonal therapy. It focuses on changing distorted views of yourself and your environment. It also works to improve relationship skills and identify and manage stressors.”
If you suffer from any kind of depression, there are strategies you can try to help yourself, but it’s tough because depression can lead to exhaustion, and feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness.
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