The law of energy dissipation and release during rock damage is studied, and the energy-based criterion for rock damage is obtained. Based on these findings, the mechanism and criterion for zonal disintegration are studied. An equivalent excavation model is proposed to obtain the releasable energy during the rock mass excavation. This releasable energy distribution in rock mass shows the elastoplastic boundary fractured with the release of the conserved energy. The zonal disintegration is thus revealed to be the circulation of this fracture along with the constant formation of the new elastoplastic boundary. Meanwhile, a sliding fracture model in polar coordinates is proposed, and the dissipated energy is calculated for the circle fracture formation. Consequently, the criterion for Zonal Disintegration Phenomenon (ZDP) is constructed according to the energy conservation law. Additionally, a formula is inferred through the criterion to determine the numbers of disintegration zones. This energy-based theory is verified as effective by applying it to an actual deep cavern where ZDP occurs.