Mental health is extremely important. It can affect the day-to-day of your life, and if something isn’t right in your mental health world, it can feel as if every day is a struggle. But it’s important to know that there are ways of managing symptoms through therapy and medication—or a combination of these, and others. So, please, don’t give up hope.

What is dysthymia?

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), is a consolidated diagnosis of dysthymia and chronic major depressive disorder.

It is a form of chronic depression. It causes overall feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy and deep sadness and can result in low self-esteem and lack of productivity. It can also cause loss of sleep and appetite. As a result of these feelings and behaviours, people with PDD/dysthymia can lose interest in doing daily activities and find it hard to be happy. It might seem as though they’re often sad and/or grumpy. These feelings can last for many years and significantly impact work, education, relationships, friendships and daily life.


The symptoms of PDD are similar to those of major depressive disorder. However, dysthymia symptoms are chronic, meaning that adults have these symptoms most days for a period of at least two years, and for children and teenagers, at least one year. The symptoms include:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • Lack of energy
  • Low or no appetite
  • Disinterest and avoidance of social activities
  • Low self-esteem
  • Negative attitude
  • Indecisiveness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Sleep problems

If major depressive episodes occur during PDD, it is called double depression. PDD symptoms often begin appearing during childhood, teenage or young adult years. This often presents itself as irritable, pessimistic and moody behaviour over a long period of time. Young people with PDD may also have behavioural problems, including socialising with other children at school and difficulty concentrating in class, resulting in poor performance. Symptoms and their severity may vary over time.

Causes / risk factors

Like some other mental health conditions, the exact cause of dysthymia isn’t known. However, similar to major depression, certain factors may result in the development of PDD, including:

  • Inherited traits/a family history of PDD. There is no “PDD gene”, but there are researchers looking at whether there are genes that contribute to depression
  • A chemical imbalance in a person’s brain chemistry
  • Other chronic health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease
  • Traumatic life events, such as the loss of a loved one, high pressure events, or financial problems
  • History of other mental health conditions, including anxiety or bipolar disorder

When and where to seek help

If you’ve been experiencing some or all of these symptoms for an extended period of time, reach out to a medical expert. You can contact your GP, who can help with a mental health care plan or refer you to see a psychologist or psychiatrist.

“There are many ways in which depression can be alleviated. Treatments can involve diet, physical activity, better stress management to more specific treatments and therapies. Seeking help from a general practitioner to discuss all options is always a good start,”

The Epworth Clinic in Camberwell has a multidisciplinary mental health team. Nurses, psychiatrists and allied health professionals work across multiple health streams to create a holistic mental health care plan for you. There is also the option for mental health telehealth appointments if that is more accessible for you.

If you or someone you know is in need of immediate support, contact lifeline on 13 11 14.

25 April 2021


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