Understanding the Difference Between Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

The dark cloud of depression affects millions of individuals every single day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 280 million people face a depressive disorder worldwide. There are several forms of depression, some of which appear very similar and can be challenging to differentiate from one another.

One example of this is the comparison between major depressive disorder (MDD) and persistent depressive disorder (PDD). A proper diagnosis is needed in order to obtain the correct treatment plan for recovery. MDD and PDD have very similar symptoms. However, there are a few distinct qualities that set the two apart from each other.

Depressive Disorder Symptoms

The general symptoms of depressive disorders can seriously harm an individual’s mind and body. If ignored, depression of any kind can result in further health problems. Below are a few of the most common effects that depression can inflict:

  • Profound, ongoing feelings of sorrow
  • Various body aches and unexplained pains
  • Gaining or losing weight excessively
  • Fits of anger even over the smallest of inconveniences
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies/activities
  • An increase in the risk of suicidal behaviors/attempts
  • Significant disruption/interference in sleep


According to the American Psychiatric Association, MDD is defined as “a medical illness that affects how you feel, think and behave causing persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.” The symptoms involved in MDD are generally severe, lasting about two weeks. They tend to interfere with daily life and the ability to function normally. This disorder has a global prevalence of 28.2% among individuals with depression.

PDD, on the other hand, has a lifetime prevalence of 2.5% and shares many of the symptoms of MDD. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), PDD is “characterized by chronic low-level depression that is not as severe but may be longer lasting than, major depressive disorder.” While the effects of MDD generally last about two weeks, PDD symptoms typically last about two years. The time frame and severity level of symptoms are the main differentiating factors for the two disorders.

Diagnosing a Depressive Disorder

The diagnosis process for any mental health disorder begins with an initial intake. This may include an overall physical health check. The next step will be a psychiatric evaluation. Your psychologist will asses your overall mental health and see what criteria you meet using the DSM-5 as a guide. Afterward, you will meet with a therapist to go over treatment options that fit your diagnosis.

Obtaining a diagnosis doesn’t mean you are being labeled. It is merely a useful tool to help find the correct combination of treatments that will work best for you and your individual needs. Every person is unique, and what works for one individual may not necessarily work for you. The diagnosis process is essential to getting the right care and achieving a successful outcome.

What Treatment Looks Like

No matter what type of depressive disorder a person may have, depression is easily treated once a diagnosis has been established. The most effective starting point for any mental health disorder is psychotherapy (or talk therapy). A subbranch of psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used in treating depression.

CBT takes place in a safe, comfortable environment with a therapist and acts as a problem-solving educational tool for its participants. The central focus of CBT is learning how to address issues in real-time. Its underlining theory, simply put, is how people mentally perceive circumstances impacts how they feel on an emotional level. By gradually learning to alter your point of view, you will be able to harness and control your own happiness.

Medication is another common form of treatment for depressive disorders like MDD and PDD. When paired with therapy, antidepressants have been shown to have a positive impact on the final outcome of depressive disorder cases. The need for medication is on a case-to-case basis, but your doctor can help you determine whether it is right for you.

Don’t Just Survive – Thrive

Navigating through the thick blanket of darkness that is depression can feel like wading through rough waters. You may end up at a point where you are merely surviving. However, you deserve much more than that. Depression isn’t who you are. It doesn’t define you. Maybe you’re sitting there right now wondering if treatment for depressive disorders really works. Well, it does.

If you or someone you know are facing depression, you have options. Therapy and medication can change the course you are currently on. Much like the bright seaside sunrise that illuminates the sky, conquering depression will bring back the light that you’re missing. Without a depressive disorder blocking your path, you will thrive in a whole new way.

Finding the light within the darker days of a depressive disorder can seem like an impossible feat. Depression can leave you feeling robbed of your joy and inner peace. This challenge you face isn’t your future. At Alter Behavioral Health, we can help guide you through the obstacles of depression. You can conquer the cloud of darkness that follows you. Let us shine the light that you’ve been missing. We know how you feel and have made it our mission to help people like you thrive in a new life of laughter and happiness. Call us today at (866) 691-4386 for more information and to get started on the bright path to the joy that you deserve.