Classifications of depression based on secondary care samples may have little relevance in primary care settings, where many patients do not fulfil criteria for major depression; for example, through having depressive symptoms that are either too mild or too brief. And yet many such patients receive antidepressant treatments (antidepressants and various psychotherapies). At a time when the appropriate recognition and treatment of people with depressive symptoms is the subject of much discussion, and there is concern about the burgeoning number of new psychiatric diagnoses, the burden and hazards of depressive disorders need to be emphasized. The paper by Pezawas et al. (2003) (in this issue) reports the findings of an epidemiological study in adolescents and young adults, and provides a detailed description of the prevalence and features of one such disruptive disorder, namely recurrent brief depression.