Diagnostic Criteria

A. A prominent and persistent period of depressed mood or markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities that predominates in the clinical picture.

B. There is evidence from the history, physical examination, or laboratory findings that the disturbance is the direct pathophysiological consequence of another medical condition.

C. The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g., adjustment disorder, with depressed mood, in which the stressor is a serious medical condition).

D. The disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of a delirium.

E. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Specify if:

  • With depressive features: Full criteria are not met for a major depressive episode.
  • With major depressive-like episode: Full criteria are met (except Criterion C) for a major depressive episode.
  • With mixed features: Symptoms of mania or hypomania are also present but do not predominate in the clinical picture.

Note: Include the name of the other medical condition in the name of the mental disorder (e.g., depressive disorder due to hypothyroidism, with depressive features). The other medical condition should also be listed separately immediately before the depressive disorder due to the medical condition (e.g., hypothyroidism; depressive disorder due to hypothyroidism, with depressive features).

Differential Diagnosis

Depressive disorders not due to another medical condition

Determination of whether a medical condition accompanying a depressive disorder is causing the disorder depends on a) the absence of an episode(s) of depressive episodes prior to the onset of the medical condition, b) the probability that the associated medical condition has a potential to promote or cause a depressive disorder, and c) a course of the depressive symptoms shortly after the onset or worsening of the medical condition, especially if the depressive symptoms remit near the time that the medical disorder is effectively treated or remits.

Medication-induced depressive disorder

An important caveat is that some medical conditions are treated with medications (e.g., steroids or alpha-interferon) that can induce depressive or manic symptoms. In these cases, clinical judgement, based on all the evidence in hand, is the best way to try to separate the most likely and/or the most important of two etiological factors (i.e., association with the medical condition vs. a substance-induced syndrome).

Adjustment disorders

It is important to differentiate a depressive episode from an adjustment disorder, as the onset of the medical condition is in itself a life stressor that could bring on either an adjustment disorder or an episode of major depression. The major differentiating elements are the pervasiveness the depressive picture and the number and quality of the depressive symptoms that the patient reports or demonstrates on the mental status examination. The differential diagnosis of the associated medical conditions is relevant but largely beyond the scope of the present manual.

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