The study investigated the experience of depressive symptoms and the relationship with diffuse physical symptoms reporting in southern Chinese seeking professional care for temporomandibular disorders (TMD) in Hong Kong. Eighty-seven new patients [77 females/10 males; mean age 39·3 years (SD 12·7)] referred to the specialist TMD clinic at the Prince Philip Dental Hospital, Hong Kong participated in this study. The Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC)/TMD history questionnaire was used to derive Axis II psychological data. Psychological status was assessed through depression and non-specific physical symptoms (NPS) scores (pain items included and excluded) measured with RDC/TMD Axis II instruments; 42·5% of patients experienced moderate/severe depression symptoms; 59·8% and 57·5% had moderate/severe NPS scores when pain items were included and excluded, respectively. Strong, positive and statistically significant correlations were noted between depression scores and the NPS scores that included pain items (r= 0·80) and those that did not (r= 0·80). The correlations remained consistent and were of similar magnitude when male patients were excluded from the computation and also when the possible effect of patient age was controlled. While taking into account the modest patient sample which was related to a low rate of treatment seeking, depressive symptoms were common and similar to other western and Chinese patient groups. NPS reports were higher than in Singapore Chinese patients. There appeared to be a clear association between depression and diffuse physical symptoms. The findings should be considered in the holistic care of Chinese people with TMD.