What Is Persistent Depressive Disorder?

Have you been depressed for what feels like forever? If your symptoms are persistent and long lasting, it's possible that you suffer from a condition called persistent depressive disorder.

What is persistent depressive disorder?

In some people, depression causes an obvious change in mood and character. For example, a social butterfly may suddenly become withdrawn and isolated. In those with persistent depressive disorder, however, it may be difficult to pinpoint a starting point for the depression. Instead, a person may feel as though they've always been that way.

How is persistent depressive disorder different from major depressive disorder?

Major depressive disorder is characterized as a period of extreme sadness, accompanied by appetite changes, difficulty sleeping, lack of interest in daily life, and feelings of hopelessness. These symptoms last for at least two weeks. With persistent depressive disorder, the symptoms may be less intense, but much more drawn out.

The two disorders may be related, with a person experiencing bouts of major depression during a larger battle with persistent depressive disorder.  

What is the diagnostic criteria for persistent depressive disorder?

People with persistent depressive disorder tend to feel melancholy most of the time. They have low-self esteem and may feel guilty for things beyond their control. They may be indecisive and unfocused, have difficulty sleeping, and eat either too much or too little. In order to be diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder, these symptoms must be present the majority of time, for a period lasting at least two years in adults and one year in children.

How is it treated?

Persistent depressive disorder-- and other forms of depression-- are usually treated with a combination of medication and therapy. There are a few different types of antidepressants available to patients. SSRIs are one of the more common drugs prescribed. They work by changing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps regulate mood.

Cognitive therapy is typically used for depression. Cognitive therapy involves making a person aware of their thoughts, and teaching them to control them. In those with depression, negative thoughts can spiral out of control, and cognitive therapy gives people the tools to stop that downward spiral. Although patients may experience relief from just one form of treatment, many therapists recommend using therapy and medication together for best results.

If you think you may have persistent depressive disorder, or any form of depression, talk to your doctor. Depression is a treatable disorder, and can occur in people experiencing major changes in their lives and those with chronic and terminal illnesses. For more information, contact a professional like Cancer Lifeline.