According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), it is estimated that about 1.3 percent of adults in the U.S. experience persistent depressive disorder (PDD) at some point in their lives, and it affects adults ages 45 to 59 more than others. Perhaps you were recently diagnosed with PDD and want to know more about it. Scroll down and keep reading as we aim to inform you about this very common mental health disorder and what to do if it affects you.

What Is PDD?

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) is chronic depression that lasts a long time, usually for at least two years. The depression is most often mild or moderate but not severe. In fact, most people do not remember when they first became depressed. PDD can begin in childhood or adulthood and is more prevalent in women. It was once referred to as dysthymia.

PDD may seem similar to major depressive disorder (MDD) because both have some of the same symptoms. However, the prolonged symptoms of PDD differentiate it from MDD. People with PDD experience their depressive symptoms for a longer time than those with MDD.

Persistent Depressive Disorder Symptoms

The most obvious symptom of PDD is a low, sad, or dark mood on most days. These symptoms can last for at least two years. However, children and teens can feel irritable instead of depressed, and their symptoms may be felt for at least one year, as the American Academy of Family Physicians notes.

Some other symptoms you may experience are:

  • Feeling hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Low energy, fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Poor concentration

It is said that those with PDD might have had a period of MDD at least once in their lives. Older people can also have PDD along with medical issues of those in their age bracket or older. PDD symptoms can experience normal moods that last up to two months. PDD can prevent people from completing tasks at work, school, or at home.

PDD might also be associated with:

  • Low quality of life
  • Poor or inadequate social support
  • Problems with work, school, and relationships
  • Other mood disorders, MDD
  • Substance use disorders
  • Medical illnesses and chronic pain
  • Disability

Persistent Depressive Disorder Diagnosis


If you are feeling depressed and have felt this way for an extended time, it is best to talk with your doctor about it. There are different types of depression, and PDD is one of them. Your doctor will ask you questions about your health and the symptoms you are experiencing. Be honest and open when answering. 

Your physician may ask about how well you are sleeping, if you feel tired most of the time, or have trouble concentrating. Any medical concerns you are undergoing will also be explored, as sometimes ongoing medical issues can cause a person to feel lasting depression. Lab tests may be ordered to determine further if there is a medical circumstance behind the depression.

The doctor will probably also conduct a psychological evaluation, which includes discussing your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. They may also ask you to complete a questionnaire to help make an accurate diagnosis.

All of this probing is essential in determining if you have PDD or something else. For a PDD diagnosis, the depressed mood occurs for most of the day for two or more years, says the Mayo Clinic. For children and teens, the depressed mood should last for at least one year.

Persistent Depressive Disorder Treatment

How your doctor approaches treatment depends on factors, like:

  • How likely you are to address emotional and situational issues that are affecting your life
  • Any other emotional or mental health disorders you may have
  • Your personal preferences to treatments and medications
  • How well you tolerate medication
  • How severe your symptoms are
  • Previous methods of treatment

There are different ways of treating PDD. The most common treatment is with antidepressant medication, which helps relieve depressive symptoms. Most of these types of medicines do not produce a feeling of being “high.” They are also not habit-forming. It could take a few weeks or even up to a month before you and your doctor know that the antidepressant is helping you. Give the medicine time to work. Always take the medicine as it is prescribed. Don’t stop taking it abruptly because it could cause your depression to come back again. If you think that the drug is not working as well as it did after you have taken it for a while, please notify your doctor. These are the three main types of antidepressants:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

Psychotherapy is also a possibility. This is better known as “talk therapy.” Psychotherapy may be the first treatment option for children and teens before medication is prescribed. It may also be wise to include it as part of the treatment for adults with PDD.

Persistent Depressive Disorder Causes

It is not known what exactly causes PDD. It is known to run in families and occurs in women more than men, says MedlinePlus. The federal medical guidance website also notes that most people with PDD may also have an episode of MDD at some time. Older people who struggle taking care of themselves, have medical illnesses or conditions, and who may feel isolated are also likely to have PDD.

PDD may develop due to a change in the serotonin level in the brain. Serotonin is the chemical that handles emotions and makes judgments. It is possible that life’s ongoing stresses, challenges, and obstacles may play a role in developing PDD.

Persistent Depressive Disorder Prevalence Among Adults

NIMH points to data that indicates:

  • 17.3 million adults in the United States are estimated to have had at least one major depressive episode.
  • The prevalence of MDD in women was higher than in men (8.8% to 5.3%).
  • Those who were between ages 18-25 were in the bracket for having a higher prevalence of MDD.

Things You Can Do to Reduce Depression

There are many things you can do at home to lessen your symptoms of depression. These coping skills may help improve your overall well-being. It may seem like a real challenge on some days to want to do anything at all. However, even small activities can provide a small boost to morale.

Make a list of small goals to achieve each day. Nothing major. The goals should be workable and reachable and something you can control. The goals should be realistic for you.

Stay in the present moment. Throw out past troubles and emotional issues. Try not to be judgmental with yourself.

Get some exercise. Take a short walk. Go outside. Movement moves your blood and provides a mood boost, as does being in the sun and appreciating nature.

Eat healthy and well. Choose foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Zest up the water with a squirt of orange or lemon juice. Drop a clean strawberry in it for fun. If you want a cookie, eat a cookie. Enjoy a small bowl of ice cream every once in a while. Small tasty rewards like those make a difference in mood.

Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Try different ways to fall asleep, like listening to meditative music. A good night’s rest is essential to keeping a positive mood.

The Connection between PDD and Addiction

Depression and addiction are known to be closely related. There are studies that conclude that almost one-third of individuals with a major depressive disorder also had the same qualifications as a substance use disorder. It is not a stretch to say that self-medicating depressive symptoms is not a good choice. Alcohol is a substance that causes depressive symptoms. Drugs, prescription or illegal, can wreak havoc on the body and brain if taken with antidepressants.

There is no way to know which disorder came first, persistent depressive disorder or substance use disorder. They may share some of the same environmental, genetic, and developmental characteristics causing them to develop at the same time.

Always remember to take care of yourself. If your PDD becomes too much to bear and disrupts your life, you can always call Vista Pines Health. We offer mental health treatment services provided by experienced, caring professionals.

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