Doctors have invented a medical name for the feeling of ‘meh’ – and it could be a serious psychological condition that affects 10 million Americans

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Persistent depressive disorder is a little-known form of mild depression 
  • It affects 10 million Americans of all ages, with women more prone to it
  • READ MORE: Getting fewer than five hours of sleep could raise risk of depression

It’s a feeling you can’t quite put your finger on. You don’t feel happy, but you’re not desperately sad – you can even crack a smile. 

You just feel a bit…meh. It’s a term that’s becoming increasingly popular on social media, as Gen Z search for words to describe their non-descript feelings.

On TikTok, for example, videos using the hashtag ‘how to stop feeling meh’ have a combined 13.4 million views.

Though it could be from the sun going down earlier at night or the approaching holiday season, many aren’t sure what’s behind the drag. 

It turns out doctors finally have a name for this feeling: it is in fact a form of depression affecting millions of Americans.   

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) – or feeling ‘meh’ – affects about three percent of Americans, or 10 million

According to experts, the condition is persistent depressive disorder (PDD), a form of chronic depression that is usually mild, and lasts for at least two years.

 In children, a diagnosis is only given if these feelings last for at least one year. 

The condition was previously defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as dysthymia, the Greek word for ‘low spirits,’ ‘moodiness,’ or ‘dejection.’ 

PDD is characterized by a consistent feeling of sadness – although patients are often able to function and may have short periods of feeling back to normal.

According to the DSM-5, symptoms include poor appetite or overeating, difficulty falling and staying asleep, fatigue, low self-esteem, poor concentration, difficulty making decisions, and feelings of hopelessness. 

About three percent of Americans – nearly 10 million – experience PDD at some point in their lives. 

Women are more prone to develop it, as well as those with a family history of the condition. 

However, doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes it. 

One theory is that it could be due to the brain producing low levels of serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and works with the sleep chemical melatonin to help control when you fall asleep and wake up.

PDD could also be triggered by stressful or traumatic events, such as losing your job or going through a divorce.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, PDD could also be linked to health conditions like diabetes and cancer due to the mental toll of living with them. 

PDD is less severe than major depressive disorder (MDD), a form of depression that affects about eight percent of American adults and 15 percent of teens.

The key difference in the conditions is how long symptoms last. 

While signs of PDD have to last for two years, MDD can be diagnosed if symptoms persist for at least two months. 

Additionally, MDD tends to be more severe, leading to feelings of worthlessness, weight loss, restlessness, and frequent thoughts of death. 

MDD is also more likely to interfere with relationships, school or work performance, and family responsibilities. 

PDD can be treated with antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and with therapy.  

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