What Is Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)?

A closeup of a sad teenage boy with a lip ring

persistent depressive disorder (also known as dysthymia and previously named Dysthymic Disorder) presents with a chronic feeling of ill being or lack of interest in activities that were formerly enjoyable, but to a lesser level than that required for major depression. In addition, the symptoms have to have been present for at least two years either continually or episodically (off and on). There may be periods of well being that last no longer than several weeks, and normal moods that last no longer than several months. A major depression may be superimposed on a dysthymic disorder, in which is colloquially called a “double depression”.

Unlike major depression, in which clients are unable to function socially or in the work setting, those with Persistent Depressive Disorder are able to work and function, although at a less than peak performance. They never present with delusions or hallucinations. The depressions are less severe than major depression, and these patients may occasional laugh and even enjoy themselves, although their support system still can become frustrated with the ongoing expressions of habitual complaints, and upsets over stressors that others have no problem with. Approximately 50% of patients with dysthymia recover, while those with “double depression” recover at a rate of 32%.

dysthymia generally occurs during early adulthood, although it can also occur in children and adolescents. Its onset is gradual, so it is difficult to accurately pinpoint the exact time when it begins.

Treatment for persistent depressive disorder begins with chemical anti-depressants. There are a number of different classes of antidepressants, including the tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, monamine-oxidase inhibitors to name a few. Each class acts differently upon the body, offering the person a wide variety of options that can be tried in order to control their depression.

psychotherapy is also utilized to help the patient in a number of areas. These include learning about their disorder, learning to view themselves and their situations more realistically, and to improve their interpersonal relationship skills. This therapy may be conducted in individual, family or group settings.

Derek Wood is a Nationally Board Certified Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse, and holds a Master's degree in Psychology. His experience in the online arena of mental health can be traced back to 1997, when he was a host for Online Psych on AOL. He joined Get Mental Help, Inc. as Clinical Content Director for Mental Health Matters. Derek, with his wife Lisa, developed the original version of psychTracker (then called A Mood Journal), after his diagnosis with Schizo-Affective Bipolar, when they could not find a system available that was robust enough to help him effectively manage his symptoms and accurately interpret his charting. Derek has worked in the field of mental health since 2001, as a Unit Manager of an adult long-term treatment facility, a charge nurse in an adolescent short-term inpatient facility and long-term residential facility, and as a School Psychologist. He has also written several articles which are being used as CEU for nurses and educators.

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