What Is Persistent Depressive Disorder?

What Is Persistent Depressive Disorder?

Depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness worldwide, but its symptoms are often misperceived as “just a bad day.” But if symptoms linger for months or years and interfere with daily life, you may be experiencing the first warning signs of something called persistent depressive disorder.


Persistent depressive disorder (PDD), also called dysthymia, is a chronic form of depression. You can lose interest in normal daily tasks, lack productivity, feel hopeless, and have poor self-esteem and an overall sense of failure. These feelings linger for years and may substantially restrict your relationships, work, school, and daily activities. And the symptoms may lead to other related conditions, both mentally and physically worrisome, but can often be managed with treatments like ketamine.


While PDD isn’t as serious as major depressive disorder, a diagnosis can only be made after experiencing a mix of depressive symptoms for two-plus years, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It affects a little more than one percent of the adults in the United States. Almost 50 percent of these cases are deemed “severe,” with the average age of occurrence being 31 years.

The condition can harm children and adolescents, too. Research shows that about 11.2 percent of 13 to 18-year-olds are affected by it in their lives, with girls more likely to experience depression than boys.


  • Lasting anxiety, sadness, or “empty” moods.
  • Less ability to think, focus, and/or make decisions.
  • Low energy and fatigue.
  • Feeling desperate.
  • Weight and/or appetite changes caused by under- or over-eating.
  • Changes in sleep habits, leading to fitful sleep, problems sleeping, early morning wakeups, or getting too much sleep.
  • Poor self-esteem.

But symptoms are manageable. Some people believe PDD can be treated with therapies like psychotherapy, traditional antidepressants, or newer options like ketamine – and have seen improvement in their lives. The catch is being persistent.

“Persistent depressive disorder is difficult to live with and its symptoms are hard to manage — but they are manageable,” said Heather Jones, who’s suffered from depression for 25 years, beginning when she was a teenager. “If you are feeling as I was, that you have tried so many things and nothing has fully helped, keep trying. Keep advocating for yourself and stay on top of new treatments.”



According to the World Health Organization, depression and its many forms is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, but PPD – like so many others – is missing a root cause. No one knows what causes PDD. It could be linked to some changes in the brain involving a chemical called serotonin, which helps your brain make judgments and handle emotions. Other medical problems and continual life stressors may play a part.

Gender may be important, too, as women are more likely to develop PDD. Some research indicates that genetics could also play a role, passed down between blood relatives.


Persistent depressive disorder is a kind of depression. It’s less harsh than major depressive disorder — but it’s continual. Most mental healthcare professionals agree with the diagnosis requirement, that it lasts two years in adults and at least a year in children and teens. During this timeframe, symptoms can be severe and don’t subside or lessen on their own. Some forms of depression can be caused by seasonal changes, for example, but not persistent depressive disorder.


Depression often occurs with other illnesses, like heart disease or cancer. It can also happen with anxiety disorders or substance abuse. Often, people who suffer from PDD symptoms grow used to the mild depressive warning signs and don’t look for help. However, early diagnosis and consistent treatment is key to recovery.

A diagnosis may be made by a licensed doctor or other medical professional specializing in mental healthcare. The goal of both is to uncover a physical reason for the symptoms or discover a personal or family history of mental illness that could be considered a precursor to PDD onset.


The traditional form of treatment for PDD is psychotherapy with the goal of altering distorted views of oneself and your environment. Psychotherapy, either in-patient or out-patient, also works to better relationship skills, and recognize and manage stressors. In the last several years, however, researchers and doctors have discovered that a treatment featuring the use of ketamine holds great promise for treating depression symptoms. In some cases, ketamine and other treatments are used as a last-resort effort.

If you or someone you love suffers from depression, you may be able to find relief with ketamine treatment.