Minor Depressive Disorder

One experiences many adversities in their life, and these experiences cause us stress, pain, sadness, and various negative emotions. One might feel 'depressed' for a while. How do we understand this short−term low mood? How long is 'it for a while?

What is Minor Depressive Disorder?

Minor Depressive Disorder first appeared in the appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, text revision (DSM-IV-TR). It was conceptualized as experiencing constant "sadness or anhedonia and other symptoms similar to major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder"; however, "not meeting the full criteria for either diagnosis." Changes in food, weight, or sleep patterns, psychomotor agitation or psychomotor retardation, fatigue or a lack of energy, guilt or feelings of worthlessness, difficulty making decisions or concentrating, and recurrent thoughts of suicide or death are a few other symptoms that may appear. At least two depressive symptoms should be present to warrant a diagnosis of minor depressive disorder. One of them should be either a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure during a period of 2−week.

Minor Depressive Disorder vs. Major Depressive Disorder

It defines −

There are similarities and differences between major depressive disorder and minor depressive disorder. For one, both are considered to be on the same continuum. Generally, minor depressive disorder is the same as major depressive disorder, except the former is less severe. Another distinction is the number of symptoms observed; For minor depressive disorder, at least two or less than five symptoms of depression should be present, and for major depressive disorder, five or more symptoms should be present. In both diagnoses, one symptom should be either depressed mood or loss of interest. For a minor depressive disorder diagnosis, an individual should not have a history of major depressive episodes or dysthymia. In the case of major depressive disorder, no history of a manic, hypomanic, or mixed episode should be present. Another common criterion for minor and major depressive disorder is significant impairment in the individual's ability to function.

One study drawing clinical differences between minor and major depression noted that compared to individuals with minor depression, individuals with major depression endorsed more lifetime depressive symptoms and met the criteria for more co-occurring disorders, mainly mania and anxiety disorders. They also had poorer psychosocial functioning and more past psychiatric treatment when first seen. The two were no differences based on sociodemographic factors, history of psychiatric illness among first−degree relatives, ratings of childhood unhappiness/problems, or initial treatment recommended.

Research Evidence

The lifetime prevalence of minor depression ranges from a low of 4.5% to a high of 10.9%, majorly because the definitions for subthreshold depression vary considerably. Research has noted that minor depression may occur independently of a lifetime history of major depressive disorder or as a stage of illness in the course of recurrent unipolar depressive disorder. Furthermore, according to research, minor depression is a strong predictor of major depression. One study done in a primary care setting with patients with depressive symptoms found that patients with minor depression saw more impairment, including health and functional status than those without depressive symptoms. Additionally, they were qualitatively similar to patients with major depression.


The treatment of minor depressive disorder has not been the subject of as much research as major depressive disorder. Although the treatment methods are frequently identical, some variations may be more effective for treating minor depressive disorder. Antidepressants and therapy are the most common forms of treatment for minor depressive disorder. Problem-Solving Treatment for Primary Care (PST−PC) is a Cognitive−Behavioral Therapy that has recently become a popular treatment for minor depression. Traditionally, individuals with minor depression were treated by watchful waiting, administered antidepressants, and given brief supportive counseling.

Research has also acknowledged the effectiveness of PST-PC and antidepressant treatment in reducing symptoms. According to one research, PST−PC is also known to reduce symptoms more quickly than routine care. Although used very widely, according to some experts, the use of antidepressants for treatment for some minor depression disorder settings is inappropriate.


Minor depression disorder is a less severe form of depression, but that does not make it any less harmful to the individual. Individuals with minor depression face impairments on various fronts and suffer from depressed moods. In extreme cases, minor depression can lead to major depression. After making a brief appearance in DSM−IV−TR, the minor depressive disorder has been removed from the present running version of DSM (DSM−V and DSM−V−TR). However, research conducted in various settings does highlight the importance of addressing minor depression in diagnosis and treatment.

Updated on: 06-Apr-2023


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