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Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia): Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Have you ever felt a lack of interest in activities that used to excite you? Does this go on in time?

People who have been diagnosed with a persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) wake up every day tired, without energy and with a guilt that they do not know how to manage. Knowing what it means to have this disorder is important to cope with it in the best possible way.

The National Institute of Mental Health informs us that there are 350 million people in the world who currently have depression.

Some of them manage to get out of it, thanks to therapy, willpower and time (since depression does not heal from one day to the next). However, persistent depressive disorder is long-term and costs much more to let go of.

Symptoms of Persistent Depressive Disorder

How can a person suspect that they have a persistent depressive disorder? Well, there are very characteristic symptoms that must be present for a minimum of 2 months.

Thus, lack of energy and excessive sleep, two characteristic symptoms of dysthymia, will be present frequently in a person’s life. Every day or almost every day, for 2 months and much more…

Another of the symptoms that can make you suspect that you have dysthymia is the lack of interest in activities that previously excited or motivated. The fact that this happens overnight, without any apparent cause, should be taken as a red flag.

On many occasions, this lack of interest is accompanied by low self-esteem with feelings of not being able or not being able to adequately carry out those activities that used to be so exciting.

There are many other symptoms that are related to dysthymia. Eating excessively or, conversely, not eating. Also, feeling great hopelessness and feelings of emptiness that make the person with dysthymia plunge into a well of guilt for not knowing how to stop feeling this way. To these symptoms are added many others that we expose below:

  • Difficulties concentrating and making decisions in the workplace or personal.
  • Tendency to isolation and avoid social activities.
  • Trouble sleeping and getting a good rest.
  • Physical activity decreases and, also, mental activity, which affects productivity.
  • Irritability that takes turns with sadness due to guilt.

What can cause it?

It is clear that persistent depressive disorder has to have a source, since no one wakes up overnight with these terrible emotions.

The first thing that is thought when a person is diagnosed with dysthymia is that something painful or traumatic has had to happen and that life events are a reason why this disorder may appear.

However, there may be a number of other causes, such as inherited traits or a brain chemistry mismatch. It is vital to understand that this type of disorder is much more common in women, although how to explain this is not yet known.

Therefore, all these factors can influence a person to begin to experience feelings of dysthymia.

Risk factor’s

Taking the above into account, what are the risk factors that can predispose a person to dysthymia? Well, the main one is having a relative (or relatives) who has been diagnosed with a depressive disorder or dysthymia.

But, you also have to pay attention to possible stressful or traumatic situations that cannot be remedied and that are present for a long period of time. This can lead to persistent depressive disorder at some point in life.

We cannot forget about personality traits such as being an extremely negative person who also has low self-esteem and who tends to have relationships based on dependency. Special care must be taken with this, as it is another risk factor.

How can it be diagnosed?

To diagnose depressive disorder, you should see a doctor immediately at the first symptoms or suspicions.

What the doctor will do is a physical examination, some tests to detect any other problem that may be causing the symptoms described and, of course, a psychological evaluation. If this determines that you suffer from dysthymia, treatment will have to be started.

Available treatments for Persistent Depressive Disorder

There are several treatments available to help you cope with dysthymia. The choice of each of them will depend on the situation of each person, the severity of their symptoms and what the doctor and the therapist decide. Ultimately, each treatment must be personalized.


The drugs may help a person with persistent depressive disorder, as it will help regulate your brain chemistry. This is not to say that they are a solution by themselves.

Treating only with drugs will generate a dependency. Therefore, it is essential that medications are supportive, but not the only way to cope with the disorder. They must be combined.

Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy has many benefits and many people benefit from it. What is learned with this type of therapy is to better manage symptoms and develop skills to deal with them better.

For example, doing physical exercise, meditating, avoiding drugs or alcohol, starting a new activity… All of this is part of this type of therapy.


We cannot forget about psychotherapy that will help people with persistent depressive disorder to understand why they feel a certain way and where that comes from.

This can give them a lot of peace and quiet, something they undoubtedly need more than ever. We could say that psychotherapy invites introspection and this is always enriching.

Depression is a growing problem in our society. More and more people go to psychologists to be able to cope with those feelings of hopelessness and sadness that they do not know how to manage.

Others rely on medications and end up not being able to live without them. Balance is the best. Medications can help, but you have to go to therapy. Only in this way will it be possible to once again have a life full of colors, optimism, hope and joy.

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