Background and Objectives: The objectives of the manuscript are: (a) to review the understanding of demoralization and its assessment; (b) to describe its clinical progression; (c) to explain the differences between demoralization and other form of psychological distress; (d) to propose a set of criteria for future research on demoralization. Methods: A MEDLINE search using the keywords distress, subjective incompetence, depression, demoralization, helplessness, hopelessness and psychopathology was conducted. This was supplemented by a manual search of the literature. Results: Demoralization can be distinguished from passing or transient distress, non-specific distress, sub-threshold depression or anxiety, and certain mental disorders. Demoralization can be a risk factor for the manifestation of psychopathology, the prodromal phase of a mental disorder, or a trigger for exacerbation or recurrence of psychiatric distress symptoms. The domains of distress and demoralization are described and research diagnostic criteria for demoralization are presented. Conclusions: The scales discussed in this article differ in their time frames and have not yet been applied to the same population at the same time. The role of demoralization as a risk factor for mental disorders is just beginning to be understood. The domains and the diagnostic criteria for demoralization presented in this article need to be confirmed by epidemiological and empirical studies. Future research should continue to clarify its role in the pathogenesis of both mental disorders and physical illnesses and identify appropriate interventions for its arrest or prevention
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