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Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

Persistent depressive disorder is classified as a type of affective disorder (also called mood disorder) that often resembles a less severe, yet more chronic form of major (clinical) depression. People with persistent depressive disorder, previously referred to as dysthymia, may also experience major depressive episodes at times.

Depression is a mood disorder that involves a child's body, mood, and thoughts.

It can affect and disrupt eating, sleeping or thinking patterns, and is not the same as being unhappy or in a "blue" mood. It is also not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. Children with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Treatment is often necessary and many times crucial to recovery.

There are three primary types of depression, including:

Persistent depressive disorder symptoms

Persistent depressive disorder occurs in about 11 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds.

Symptoms may include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness

  • Feeling hopeless or helpless

  • Low self-esteem

  • Feeling inadequate

  • Excessive guilt

  • Feelings of wanting to die

  • Difficulty with relationships

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Changes in appetite or weight

  • Decreased energy

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Irritability, hostility, aggression

  • Indecisiveness

  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

  • Frequent physical complaints (headaches, stomachaches, etc.)

  • Running away or threats of running away from home

  • Loss of interest in usual activities or activities once enjoyed

  • Hypersensitivity

Diagnosis and treatment

For a diagnosis of persistent depressive disorder to be made, a depressed or irritable mood must persist for at least one year in children or adolescents and must be accompanied by at least two of the other major depressive symptoms listed above. 

Because depression has shown to often coexist with other psychiatric disorders, such as substance abuse or anxiety disorders, seeking early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to the recovery of your adolescent.

A child psychiatrist or other mental health professional usually diagnoses persistent depressive disorder following a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation. An evaluation of the adolescent's family, when possible, in addition to information provided by teachers and care providers may also be helpful in making a diagnosis.

Treatment for mood disorders, including persistent depressive disorder, is often very effective. It can help reduce the severity of symptoms and the risk for a relapse.

Treatment may include:

  • Antidepressant medications

  • Psychotherapy

  • Family therapy

  • Consultation with the adolescent's school

Parents play a vital supportive role in any treatment process.

Because episodes of persistent depressive disorder may last for longer than five years, long-term, continued treatment may help to prevent recurrence of the depressive symptoms.

Make an Appointment


Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic


Behavioral Health Day Treatment Programs: PHP/IOP

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