We all feel sad from time to time.
And depending on the cause of the sadness, we might feel the emotion for a short period or for quite a while. Sadness may also subside and return from time to time.
Because we tend to be a little imprecise in our language use, we sometimes use the word “depressed” to describe someone who is sad. And if their sadness is ongoing, we’re even more likely to suggest that they are depressed. We might say something like, “Mary has been depressed since her father passed away.”
Depression and sadness are not the same thing, and it can be important to differentiate between them to know whether someone needs treatment for a mental health disorder. Let’s take a look at the disorder known as persistent depressive disorder, its symptoms, and approaches to treatment.
Persistent Depressive Disorder—Dysthymia
You might be diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder if your symptoms of depression have lasted for two years or longer. That diagnosis will also likely come with a determination of whether you are suffering from a persistent case of major depression or from mild persistent depressive disorder, which is also known as dysthymia.
Don’t mistake the word “mild” for a suggestion that dysthymia is something you can simply shrug off. Persistent depressive disorder can upend your life in a variety of ways—including making it difficult to enjoy the positive things about everyday life and hampering the setting and achieving of long-term goals. Dysthymia can smother you in a blanket of depression that makes it hard to function. And its persistence—the fact that it seldom lets up—can be the most problematic aspect as it continues to wear you down.
A look at symptoms of dysthymia makes it clear that we are talking about something quite different from the sadness everyone experiences now and again. Those symptoms include:
- An ongoing feeling of depression or sadness for the majority of the day, nearly every day
- Excessive sleeping nearly every day
- Ongoing insomnia—despite the desire to sleep excessively
- Ongoing fatigue and/or loss one energy
- An ongoing feeling of restlessness
- Feeling guilty, hopeless, or worthless nearly every day
- Persistent difficulty making decisions or sustaining concentration
- Changes in appetite and/or significant weight change in either direction over the course of a month
- Frequent and serious contemplation of suicide
Again, we cannot emphasize enough that persistent depressive disorder is not the same as sadness or the blues. As that final symptom—the contemplation of suicide—reveals, dysthymia can be a life-threatening condition.
That is why it is so important to get treatment for persistent depressive disorder.
Treatment for Dysthymia
If you are diagnosed with the milder form of persistent depressive disorder, your physician will likely recommend a combination of medication and therapy. While each of those options can be beneficial on its own, it is generally agreed that the most effective treatment for dysthymia involves both.
There are a variety of options when it comes to talk therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, but the goals are similar. In therapy, you can learn strategies for dealing with negative thoughts and emotions that can go a long way toward improving the way that you feel and function.
Meanwhile, there are a variety of antidepressants as well. It may take time to find the right medication for you because different people respond to the medications differently. Your doctor will work with you to find the right medication at the right dose to improve your symptoms of depression while also limiting any side effects that might be associated with the drug. In some cases, you may need to adjust your medication with some frequency to ensure that you keep experiencing the benefits.
Again, you could choose either therapy or antidepressants for addressing persistent depressive disorder, but the best results generally come from a combination of the two.
We Are Nothing If Not Persistent When It Comes to Helping
At Peak View Behavioral Health, we are fully committed—you might even say “persistent”—when it comes to helping those who are struggling with mental health issues like persistent depressive disorder. Our staff of nonjudgmental, compassionate experts will listen to you and then personalize a treatment plan to address your mental health disorder.
We can provide the support and resources you need to see real improvement in your daily life.