Atypical Depression

1 What is Atypical Depression?

Atypical depression is a type of major depression in which the individual may show positive responses with pleasurable events.

It may increase

  • the appetite,
  • sleep,
  • heaviness in arms and legs.

Mood of the person often depend on the environmental circumstances, and are sensitive about rejection.

It is very common and people with this condition have emotional and physical problems.

They often have difficulty in carrying out day-to-day activities.

Atypical depression can be treated with

  • medication,
  • psychotherapy,
  • small changes in lifestyle. 

2 Symptoms

The symptoms of Atypical depression include at least two of the following:

  • Excessive sleep
  • Increased appetite or gain in body weight
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection
  • Feeling of being weighed down or paralyzed
  • Some not-so-common symptoms of the condition include
  • Insomnia
  • Eating disorders like bulimia
  • Headache or body pain
  • Poor body image

Atypical depression is different from major depression in that mood of the person improves with positive environment.

It may occur as a part of a major depression or mild, long-lasting depression.

Symptoms of atypical depression are not specific and are seen in other conditions like anxious distress depression.

3 Causes

The actual cause of atypical depression is not known. The cause of the changes in features of depression is also not clear.

It is a chronic condition which often starts in teenage years. Genetic factors and brain differences are implied in the development of atypical depression.

Impaired neurotransmitters in the brain affects the function of nerve receptors, leading to the symptoms of atypical depression.

It is more commonly found in people with a family history of depression, suggesting a genetic link to the development of the disorder. 

Major risk factors for atypical depression include

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Childhood trauma
  • Personality traits like low self-esteem
  • Serious medical conditions like cancer or heart disease
  • Certain medications
  • Environment stress

People who have blood relatives with bipolar disorder, depression, and alcoholism are more likely to develop this condition.

Postpartum depression, and stressful life events may also increase the possibility of atypical depression.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making diagnosis of Atypical depression is done by several tests which include:

  • Review of signs and symptoms,
  • medical history,
  • family history,
  • physical examination.

It also helps to rule out the chances of other medical conditions that have similar symptoms. A blood test is recommended to check for thyroid functioning.

Psychological evaluation helps to assess the signs of depression. In this procedure, the doctor asks about the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of the person.

The symptoms are then compared to the criteria provided in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by American Psychiatric Association. 

5 Treatment

Medications and psychotherapy are the methods used in the treatment of Atypical depression.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) have antidepressant properties that are useful in controlling the symptoms. It also help in reducing anxiety and other specific symptoms of the condition.

These medications have specific interactions with certain foods and medications like

Other antidepressants like sertraline and fluoxetine are also an option for treating the symptoms of atypical depression. Choice of medication is based on trial and error method. In some people some medications are effective when used alone, while in some others a combination of medications is of help.

In psychotherapy, the person is encouraged to talk about the condition and issues related to it.

It helps the person to identify and correct unhealthy thoughts and behavior, and also to interact well with others. It paves the way to find a better solution to the problem and to cope with the situation.

Psychotherapy helps to set realistic goals and to develop a sense of satisfaction. This newly gained confidence controls symptoms of atypical depression.

Treatment of atypical depression is often accompanied by treatment of other conditions like anxiety and substance abuse.

6 Prevention

There is no standard way to prevent atypical depression.

Controlling stress and improving self-esteem help in boosting mental health.

Early treatment is the key for a successful control.

Long-term maintenance treatment may also be of help to prevent recurrence. 

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Homeopathic remedies used in the treatment of Atypical depression include:

  • Arsenicum album,
  • ignatia,
  • natrum muriatricum,
  • sepia

Remedies used to control symptoms of this disorder are:

  • Herbal supplements,
  • acupuncture,
  • relaxation techniques,
  • regular exercise

These techniques may be useful when used in combination with the conventional treatment of medications and psychotherapy. 

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with Atypical depression.

As depression takes away the structure from our daily life, setting a routine helps to carry on with life.

Setting small, achievable goals help to move on with the changes in life.

Exercise boosts the production of endorphins that improve mood.

Healthy diet always helps in improving overall health.

A good sleep is also important in controlling depression. 

9 Risk and Complications

Atypical depression may lead to several risks and complications like:

  • weight gain,
  • issues in relationships at home and workplace,
  • alcohol abuse,
  • anxiety or other mental conditions,
  • suicidal thoughts. 

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