Dysthymia (Persistent Depressive Disorder)

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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What is the prognosis of persistent depressive disorder?

About two-thirds of people with persistent depressive disorder are thought to continue having some symptoms of the disorder 10 years later. These individuals are at risk for complications like having marital problems, generally having low social support and an overall compromised life adjustment. It is thought that these risks are greater for persistent depressive disorder sufferers than even people with major depression because of the chronic nature of the illness and the greater influence of life stressors in the development of persistent depressive disorder. Having another mental-health condition, a history of trauma, or history of poor family relationships during childhood further negatively impacts the prognosis of people with dysthymic disorder. The age that someone first develops this condition is also important to his or her prognosis. Those who experience their first episode of a compromised life adjustment prior to 21 years of age tend to have a worse prognosis than people who first have persistent depressive disorder at 21 years of age or older.

Is it possible to prevent persistent depressive disorder?

Attempts at prevention of persistent depressive disorder tend to address both specific and nonspecific risk factors and strengthen protective factors. Such programs often use cognitive behavioral and/or interpersonal approaches, as well as family based prevention strategies because research indicates that these interventions are the most helpful.

The inverse of most risk factors, protective factors for depression include preventing exposure to neglect, abuse, community violence or other trauma, having the involvement of supportive family, strengthening family and peer relationships, and developing healthy coping and emotional regulation skills. Children of a dysthymic parent tend to be more resilient when the child is more able to focus on age-appropriate tasks in their lives and on their relationships, as well as being able to understand their parent's illness. For depressed adults, their children seem to be more protected from developing the illness when the parent is able to demonstrate a commitment to parenting and to relationships.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/8/2016

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