“Unspecified depressive disorder” is used when someone displays depressive symptoms, but there isn’t enough information for a specific diagnosis.

Depressive symptoms can be complex and may not clearly fit into a specific diagnostic category. In such cases, a diagnosis of “unspecified depressive disorder” allows healthcare professionals to acknowledge and address the presence of symptoms and provide appropriate care.

“Unspecified depressive disorder” is a diagnostic term used when a person is experiencing significant distress or impairment, but there’s limited information to establish a more precise diagnosis within the depressive disorder category.

This diagnosis is used when the clinician doesn’t specify the exact reason criteria aren’t met or when there isn’t enough information available for a more precise diagnosis, such as in emergency room settings.

Similarly, “other specified” is a term used to describe a disorder that doesn’t entirely meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis, such as when a person exhibits depressive symptoms but falls short of the criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD) or persistent depressive disorder.

These terms, introduced in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), have replaced the previous umbrella term “not otherwise specified (NOS).” This update was applied to improve the categorization of symptoms that didn’t neatly fit into specific diagnostic criteria.

Unspecified depressive disorder symptoms

Unspecified depressive disorder doesn’t have specific symptom criteria outlined in diagnostic manuals such as the DSM. Individuals diagnosed with unspecified depressive disorder may exhibit a range of symptoms that are characteristic of depressive disorders in general.

These symptoms may include:

  • persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
  • loss of interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed
  • changes in appetite or weight
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • sleep disturbances (sleeping too much or too little)
  • fatigue or loss of energy
  • feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • restlessness or slowed movements
  • recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Help is out there

If you or someone you know is in crisis and considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:

If you’re calling on behalf of someone else, stay with them until help arrives. You may remove weapons or substances that can cause harm if you can do so safely.

If you are not in the same household, stay on the phone with them until help arrives.

Was this helpful?

When a depression diagnosis is labeled as “unspecified,” it signifies that your symptoms align with those of a depressive disorder and result in significant distress or impairment in your daily life. But, it also means that at the moment, it’s unclear which specific depressive diagnosis precisely fits your symptoms.

This category is used when the clinician determines that a more precise diagnosis can’t be determined based on the available information.

What does Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) mean?

“Not otherwise specified (NOS)” was an umbrella term used in previous editions of the DSM. It referred to any set of symptoms that didn’t fall neatly into a diagnostic category.

The requirements for a diagnosis of MDD include a depressed mood and a loss of interest or pleasure.

To be diagnosed with MDD, you must experience a depressed mood for most of the day, nearly every day.

Additionally, loss of interest or pleasure entails a significant decrease of interest or pleasure in almost all previously enjoyed activities. This is known as anhedonia.

In addition to either the depressed mood or loss of interest/pleasure, you must also experience at least five of the following symptoms (at least one of the symptoms must be either depressed mood or loss of interest/pleasure) during the same 2-week period.

  • significant weight loss or weight gain (without deliberate effort) or changes in appetite
  • insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness)
  • psychomotor agitation or observable physical restlessness or slowed movements
  • fatigue or loss of energy
  • feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
  • recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, or a suicide attempt

These symptoms should be a change from your previous functioning and cause distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Depression can be treated using different approaches, including the following:

The initial treatment for MDD usually involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy, as studies have shown this combination is more effective than using either treatment alone.

For people with severe depression, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has been found to be the most effective form of treatment. A review found that ECT improves outcomes when combined with standard medication and care.

Studies have also found that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a type of brain stimulation therapy, is also an effective technique for people experiencing treatment-resistant depression.

Does an unspecified depression diagnosis affect treatment?

Not necessarily. Even without a specific diagnostic label, healthcare professionals will still work with you to develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Treatment options such as medication, therapy, and lifestyle modifications may be considered based on the severity of symptoms and your individual preferences.

The label of “unspecified depressive disorder” is applied when symptoms of depression are evident and causing distress, but there may be insufficient information available to assign a specific diagnosis.

If you’re currently experiencing depressive symptoms, it’s important to seek support from a healthcare professional. They can provide treatment aimed at relieving symptoms, improving overall well-being, and enhancing your functioning, regardless of the specific diagnostic label.