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What Is The Criteria For A Major Depressive Episode?

criteria for a major depressive episode


You may have heard of the term Major Depressive Episode. This type of episode pertains to Major Depressive Disorder. However, the question remains what is a Major Depressive Episode. This article will describe just that. This article will describe the criteria for a Major Depressive Episode.

What Is The Criteria For A Major Depressive Episode?

According to BehaveNet, the criteria for a Major Depressive Episode to occur is listed below:

  1. Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either:

                (1) depressed mood or
(2) loss of interest or pleasure.

Other criteria for a Major Depressive Episode to occur include:

(1) depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). Note: In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood. 
(2) markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation made by others) 
(3) significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. Note: In children, consider failure to make expected weight gains. 
(4) Insomnia or Hypersomnia nearly every day 
(5) psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down) 
(6) fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day 
(7) feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick) 
(8) diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others) 
(9) recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide 

Other criteria for a Major Depressive Episode include:

B. The symptoms do not meet criteria for a Mixed Episode.

C. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

D. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., hypothyroidism).

E. The symptoms are not better accounted for by Bereavement, i.e., after the loss of a loved one, the symptoms persist for longer than 2 months or are characterized by marked functional impairment, morbid preoccupation with worthlessness, suicidal ideation, psychotic symptoms, or psychomotor retardation.


With that said, the above information includes the criteria for a Major Depressive Episode to occur. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult with a doctor. Do not diagnose yourself.

Woman with fatigue photo available from Shutterstock

What Is The Criteria For A Major Depressive Episode?

Lauren Walters

My name is Lauren Walters. I am currently heading into my final semester of graduate school for Mental Health Counseling in the Spring of 2016. Through my own experiences with mental illness, I love to inspire others through my writings and reassure them that they can live healthy, productive lives, despite mental illness. I hope you enjoy my articles. Feel free to comment. I will be sure to respond to you questions and/or comments in a prompt manner. Enjoy!

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APA Reference
Walters, L. (2016). What Is The Criteria For A Major Depressive Episode?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Apr 2016
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