Atypical Depression: Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis And More.

The atypical depression is a subtype of major or disorder depression dysthymic involving several specific symptoms, including increased appetite or weight gain, drowsiness or sleepiness excessive fatigue or marked weakness, moods are strongly reactive to environmental circumstances and extremely sensitive to rejection.

What is atypical depression?

It refers to a depressive state where people experience a better state of mind when they encounter pleasant events, this type of major depression or dysthymia is atypical of melancholic depression , where improvements in the mood of positive situations do not usually manifest in affected individuals. It is more common in women than in men and is more chronic with an earlier onset than melancholic depression .

Increased risk of disorders of suicide and anxiety is present with atypical depression. People who experience bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, cyclothymia, and seasonal affective disorder as they are more likely to experience atypical depression. Some researchers believe that atypical depression is due to key brain differences, including abnormal chemical neurotransmitters that carry signals to the brain and body, and heredity.

Despite its name, ‘atypical’ depression does not mean that it is uncommon or unusual, the reason for its name is twofold: (1) it was identified with its ‘unique’ symptoms after the identification of melancholic depression and (2 ) their responses to the two different classes of antidepressants that were available at the time were different from melancholic depression.

Atypical depression has a high comorbidity of anxiety disorders, carries an increased risk of suicidal behavior, and has distinct psychopathological and biological characteristics. Depressive episodes in bipolar disorder tend to have atypical features, as does depression with seasonal patterns.

Symptoms of atypical depression

Despite its name, it is one of the most common variants of depression, accounting for almost a third of diagnoses. Experienced by women two to three times more frequently than men, atypical depression manifests as major depressive disorder or persistent depressive disorder with the ability to briefly experience positive events with an improved mood.

Symptoms of atypical depression include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
  • Anxiety or irritability.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things.
  • Low energy or fatigue.
  • Thoughts or talking about suicide.

They may also experience atypical features, such as:

  • A state of mind that is temporarily lifted or brightened in response to positive events or good news.
  • Significant weight gain.
  • Increased appetite
  • Feeling of heaviness in arms or legs.
  • Body aches or headaches.
  • Sleeping for long periods of time during the day or night.
  • Extremely negative response to criticism or perceived rejection.

Causes of atypical depression

Depression is believed to be the result of impaired functioning of brain circuits that regulate mood and allow one region of the brain to communicate with another. Nerve cells contained within these circuits transmit signals through brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, antidepressant medications are believed to ‘modify’ these chemicals and thereby improve the efficiency of brain circuits related to mood.

While the exact cause of depression is unknown, there are risk factors for depression, including:

  • A family history of depression.
  • A significant loss from death, divorce, or separation, which can trigger an underlying vulnerability to depression (rather than just normal grief).
  • Interpersonal conflicts and related emotions , such as guilt.
  • Any type of physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
  • Any type of major life event, such as moving, changing or losing a job, graduating, retiring, or social isolation in people who have a biological vulnerability to depression.
  • Any type of serious illness such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, or HIV.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse.

Atypical depression diagnosis

Make an appointment with your doctor if you think you have this depression with atypical features, your doctor may complete a physical exam and order lab tests, such as a complete blood count and thyroid function test. These tests can check for possible health problems that may be triggering your symptoms, treating an underlying condition can improve your mood, and alleviate other associated symptoms.

Your doctor may also complete a psychological evaluation to look for signs with atypical characteristics, they may ask you questions about your:

  • Symptoms.
  • Personal life.
  • Previous experiences.
  • Current medications.
  • Personal or family history.

Your doctor can diagnose depression with atypical features if:

  • There is no underlying condition that causes your symptoms.
  • Your symptoms match the diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Treatment of atypical depression

Treatment with atypical features can vary. In most cases, however, treatment includes a combination of medications, talk therapy, and lifestyle changes.


Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Some people who have this type of depression with atypical features do not respond well to tricyclic antidepressants, however, numerous inhibitors have been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of the disorder. Your doctor may prescribe one medicine or a combination of medicines to control your symptoms.

It is important to note that taking them may require changing your diet, these antidepressants can interact with certain foods and medications, including birth control pills and decongestants. Be sure to ask your doctor about side effects and food or drug interactions before you start taking a new medicine.

Therapy talk

Talk therapy involves meeting regularly with a therapist or counselor. This type of treatment allows you to:

  • Express your feelings.
  • Identify unhealthy thoughts.
  • Learn how to solve problems.

This can help you cope with your condition and improve your outlook. Your therapist can also show you how to set realistic life goals so that you can regain a sense of satisfaction and control over your life.

Lifestyle and home remedies

In addition to medication and therapy, lifestyle changes and home remedies can also help relieve symptoms. These include:

  • Avoiding recreational drugs and alcohol.
  • Exercising at least three times a week.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Implementing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation.
  • Take certain supplements, such as fish oil and St. John’s wort.

Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any supplement, some natural remedies can interact with certain medications used to treat atypical depression.

How to deal with atypical depression?

Talk therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes are effective treatments for depression with atypical features. But there are other ways to deal with the symptoms:

  • Write in a journal every day.
  • Plan ahead and manage your time well.
  • Participate in activities that help you manage stress , such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation.
  • Surround yourself with family and friends instead of isolating yourself.
  • Trust a trusted friend.
  • Ask your doctor for information on local support groups for depression.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.

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