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Unipolar minor depression in adults: Epidemiology, clinical presentation, and diagnosis

Jeffrey M Lyness, MD
Section Editor
Peter P Roy-Byrne, MD
Deputy Editor
David Solomon, MD


The continuum of clinical depression increases in severity from subsyndromal symptoms to the syndromes of minor depression and major depression [1-3]. Minor depression is defined by fewer symptoms than major depression, and tends to have shorter episodes, less comorbidity, less psychosocial and physical impairment, and fewer recurrences [1,2,4].

Nevertheless, minor depression is a common syndrome that causes clinically significant distress and impairs functioning [5-10]. In addition, minor depression is associated with somatic symptoms [6,11], comorbid psychiatric and general medical disorders [6,11], and substantial health care utilization and costs [1,11,12]. Most patients with minor depression do not seek treatment from a mental health clinician but are frequently seen in primary care [5,13]. Although minor depression is at least as prevalent as major depression, fewer patients with minor depression are accurately diagnosed by primary care clinicians [6,14].

This topic reviews the epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, assessment, diagnosis, and differential diagnosis of minor depression. The treatment of minor depression is discussed separately, as are the clinical features, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of major depression:

(See "Unipolar minor depression in adults: Management and treatment".)

(See "Unipolar depression in adults: Assessment and diagnosis".)


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Nov 23, 2015.
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