Diagnostic Criteria for Major Depression

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In major depression, the person’s mood is described as depressed, sad, hopeless, discouraged, or “down in the dumps”.

Diagnostic Criteria for Major Depression (American Psychiatric Association)

  • Period of at least 2 wk during which five or more symptoms have been present (at least one of the symptoms is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities).
  • Changes in appetite or decrease or increase in weight, insomnia or hypersomnia, and psychomotor agitation or retardation; decreased energy; feelings of worthlessness or guilt; difficulty in thinking, concentrating, or making decisions; recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation, plans, or attempts.
  • Symptoms are either new or worse than before the depressive episode, and they persist for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least 2 consecutive wk.
  • Episode accompanied by clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  • Symptoms are not due to bereavement or to direct physiological effect of medication, general medical condition, or substance abuse



  1. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th ed. rev.: DSM-IV-R. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
  2. Frye MA. Clinical practice. Bipolar disorder–a focus on depression. N Engl J Med. 2011 Jan 6;364(1):51-9. [Medline]

Created: Jan 12, 2011.