Symptoms of Persistent Depressive Disorder

It is not simple sadness, or fatigue, or a bad time. Dysthymia and the symptoms of persistent depressive disorder can last for years and, in case of not receiving a diagnosis and an adequate treatment, we can derive in a major depression.

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The symptoms of Persistent Depressive Disorder or dysthymia tell us that we are facing something more than a simple chronic sadness. In many cases, this clinical condition is the prelude to a major depression. However, the hardest thing is that a person can spend months and even years dragging this suffocating grief without knowing the origin, but seeing their very damaged quality of life.

If people with dysthymia had an MRI, they could see something very striking. The brain of patients with depression – in general, in a negative emotional state – works very differently from those who do not. There is an imbalance, the areas responsible for regulating thought, sleep, appetite and even decision making have problems to communicate and work more slowly.

These psychological realities are not appreciated on the outside. Persistent depressive disorder does not leave a mark, does not cause a fever and does not even make us totally unable to go to work or interact; however, it is there. And life hurts and becomes slow, difficult and dark when dysthymia lives next to the patient as a permanent co-pilot who gradually takes control of any situation.

Therefore, and knowing this, it is vital that we learn to recognize the symptoms. An early approach to this condition prevents this condition from becoming worse, since, as the clinical data reveal, the risk of deriving a greater depression is 50%.

“I walk slowly, but I never walk back.”

-Abraham Lincoln-

What are the symptoms of persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)?

In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), dysthymia or dysthymic disorder receives a new label: persistent depressive disorder. This designation describes a clinical entity that, without being as serious as major depression, is characterized above all by being persistent, for having a duration of between 6 months and two years.

Studies, such as those carried out at the University of California by doctors C.T. Hoepner and M. Zetin, point out that to consider it a minor or minor depression would be an error. Thus, while major depression has an intense or limiting symptomatology, dysthymia has less debilitating but chronic characteristics. That is, they are discomforts, heaviness and a tiredness that is repeated day after day and month after month until it deeply undermines the mood of the patient.

Therefore, it is not a minor disorder. On the other hand, it is striking that in turn the following reality: dysthymia has in many cases a genetic factor and affects women to a greater degree. Sometimes, some people point out that feeling this way is in many cases an extension of the feelings that have predominated in childhood. Assuming this factor as a determinant is a serious error, just as it is normalizing to feel that way.

Symptoms of persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)

Although the symptomatology of depression is replicated differently depending on the person it affects, it should be noted that there are usually common patterns in which the most important diagnostic criteria are supported. They are facts, subtle brushstrokes, sensations and emotional states that, without being serious or incapacitating due to their intensity, end up being so because of their persistence.

Thus, perhaps the person does not feel incapable to work, interact or carry out leisure tasks; These tasks are performed “by obligation”, but without experiencing motivation or an authentic pleasure in its passing. Let’s see more symptoms of persistent depressive disorder:

  • Eating disorders; We may have little hunger or eat excessively.
  • Sleeping little or being sleepy most of the day.
  • Lack of energy, constant tiredness.
  • Problems to concentrate and make decisions.
  • Low motivation
  • Social mimicry: we can simply do the same as others, laugh when others laugh, attend events, follow conversations with apparent interest … However, all this is nothing more than a camouflage, because inside none of that interests or appeals.
  • Discouragement, grief and negativity.
  • Times in which bad humor predominates.

These symptoms must appear for at least two years.

What is the treatment for dysthymia?

Once the symptoms of persistent depressive disorder are identified, it is essential to seek professional help. Thus, one fact that we must bear in mind is that although it is often said that its appearance is more common in women, there is a high possibility that men are still reluctant to ask for support.

This condition does not disappear by itself. It is not a temporary downturn, it is not a bad time. It is like a virus that is installed and stays until shaping very debilitating states. Therefore, the most common therapeutic strategy is double.

In some cases, the pharmacological route will be necessary. Among the most common treatments are the following:

  • SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
  • ATC (tricyclic antidepressants).
  • SNRI (inhibitors of the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine).
  • Secondly, psychological therapy is necessary in all cases, the most effective being cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • On the other hand, other approaches will also be useful, such as support groups, conversational therapy, Mindfulness, interventions to improve the quality of sleep, nutrition, social relationships…


Each person will benefit from a specific type of treatment. In one way or another, persistent depressive disorder can be treated and the prognosis is usually good. Let’s never hesitate to ask for help, there are small actions that can open the way to the well-being we deserve.