It's natural to go through ups and downs in life; some years simply take more of an emotional toll than others. (For instance, the year I tried to quit caffeine is largely a haze of exhaustion and grumpiness in my memory.) When you have persistent depressive disorder (PDD), however, it's much harder to bounce back from the downs. Although it affects almost two percent of the population, this disorder isn't as well-known as its more severe counterpart, major depression. In fact, it often flies under the radar — not least because its symptoms can be easily brushed off as a simple bad mood or pessimism.
So what is PDD? Formerly known as dysthymic disorder, the disorder is characterized by chronic, low-level depression or irritability. Symptoms vary in intensity, and they may even disappear entirely for brief periods of time. However, one of the defining characteristics of the disorder is its regularity; unlike major depression, which tends to be episodic, people with PDD experience a persistent low mood over the course of at least two years. Although it's not as severe as major depression, PPD is more than just having a rough year or feeling sad, which are natural parts of being human. Rather, PDD is a widely-researched disorder with real, detrimental effects on those who suffer from it.
As always, the Internet isn't where you should be getting psychological diagnoses — that's up to psychologists. However, if you regularly experience the following symptoms of PDD, it could be a sign that there's something bigger at play, and you may want to get the opinion of a professional.
1. Feeling Blue Is Your Default
Although nobody's happy all the time, the same goes for the opposite end of the spectrum. For most people, their default state is neutral: Not ecstatic, but not unhappy either. If you find yourself feeling down more often than not over the course of at least two years, it could be a sign that something is wrong.
2. You're Always Tired
One of the major characteristics of depression is a change in energy levels. Whether they're sleeping too much or too little, people with PDD often report feeling fatigued, which may also diminish their ability to concentrate.
3. You Have Low Self-Esteem
Like those with major depression, people with PDD usually have low self-esteem. This may be exacerbated by the following symptom...
4. You Always Take The Negative View
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, people with PDD are frequently pessimists and "often take a negative or discouraging view of themselves, their future, other people, and life events." This may be accompanied a general feeling of hopelessness.
5. Happiness Never Lasts Long
As we discussed above, symptoms vary in their intensity. However, one of the criteria for PDD is that your low mood never lifts for long; according to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms usually return within two months.
6. You're Irritable All The Time
Even if you're not actively sad, irritability is sometimes an indicator of depression. In fact, excessive anger is often used to diagnose depression in children and adolescents, who may lash out as a coping mechanism.
7. These Symptoms Persist For Years
The key characteristic of PDD is its constancy. Most of us cycle through ups and downs over the course of time, but people with PDD are stuck feeling down more often than not. In fact, the symptoms may begin so early and persist for so long that they feel like the natural way of things — but with help, it's possible to beat PDD.
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