Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

Persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia, is the state of having a mild to moderate chronic depressed mood. The term is used to refer to a less severe form of depression that tends to last longer than major depressive disorder.

Symptoms of Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent depressive disorder’s primary distinction from major depression is its duration; in other words, it is a chronic form of depression. The presence of several of the following symptoms for at least two years are criteria for a diagnosis of persistent depressive disorder:

What Causes Persistent Depressive Disorder?

Persistent depressive disorder often starts with symptoms of traditional depression. It is common among the elderly and among people who are isolated, who have health problems, and who have another mental health condition. It is more common in women than in men, and about 5% of the population suffers from persistent depressive disorder at least once. The condition is believed to have a genetic element and brain chemistry can increase a person’s chance of developing major depression or persistent depressive disorder.

What Is the Treatment for Persistent Depressive Disorder?

Because the symptoms of persistent depressive disorder may be less pronounced than the overwhelming depression and suicidal ideation that often comes along with major depressive disorder, it often progresses significantly before treatment is sought. Thus, treatment may take longer. A combination of talk therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication can help alleviate the symptoms. Studies indicate that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is especially effective at treating chronic forms of depression. Spontaneous remission—alleviation of symptoms for no apparent reason—may also occur.


    A.D.A.M. Editor Board I. (2010, November 18). Dysthymia. PubMed Health. Retrieved from:

    American Psychological Association. APA Concise Dictionary of Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2009. Print.