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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2008;10(3):271-7.

Core symptoms of major depressive disorder: relevance to diagnosis and treatment.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The construct of major depressive disorder makes no etiological assumptions about populations with diverse symptom clusters. "Depressed mood" and "loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities" are core features of major depressive episode, though a strong case can be made to pay increasing attention to symptoms of fatigue, sleep disturbance, anxiety, and neurocognitive and sexual dysfunction in the diagnosis and evaluation of treatment outcome. Mood, guilt, work, and interest, as well as psychic anxiety, are consistently identified across validated subscales of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale as prevalent and sensitive to change with existing treatments. A major limitation of these antidepressant therapies is their narrow spectrum of action. While the core "mood and interest" symptoms have been the main focus of attention, the associated symptoms listed above are often unaffected or exacerbated by current treatments. Careful clinical evaluation should address all of these dimensions, recognizing that improvement may occur sooner in some symptoms (eg, mood) compared with others (eg, sleep disturbance).

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