Atypical Depression, Overview Symptoms, Treatments, and Diagnosis

Atypical Depression is different from other kinds of depression because of its symptoms. The moods of atypical depressives may be reactive, meaning they may feel better when they hear good news. They may also feel like their limbs are heavy. They may also be more sensitive to rejection, eating more, or both.

What is Atypical Depression?

Major depressive disorder (MDD) has several subtypes, and atypical depression is one of them. It is distinguished from other types of depression by its unique symptoms. Atypical depressives’ moods may be reactive, meaning they improve when confronted with good news. They may also feel a heaviness in their limbs, an increased sensitivity to rejection, an increased appetite, or both.

This article will explore the signs, triggers, and potential outcomes of atypical depression. We’ll talk about how to know when to seek professional help for a diagnosis and the various treatment options, like talk therapy and medication.

Atypical Depression Symptoms

Symptoms of atypical depression are distinct from those of more common forms of depression. Some of these signs are:

  • Mood reactivity: People with atypical depression have mood reactivity, meaning their mood improves when something good happens. They might feel better for a short time when something good happens, like getting good news or doing something fun.
  • Increased appetite or weight gain: People with atypical depression often have a bigger appetite and may gain a lot of weight. This is different from people with typical depression. They might have a strong desire for certain foods, especially carbs.
  • People with atypical depression tend to sleep too much and may have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. This is called hypersomnia. Even if they sleep longer, they may feel tired or worn out during the day.
  • People with atypical depression often describe a heavy or “leaden” feeling in their arms and legs. This feeling could make it hard for them to move or do other everyday things.
  • Sensitivity to rejection: People with atypical depression may feel more hurt when others criticize or criticize them. They may have a strong emotional response to what they see as slights or disagreements with other people.
  • People with atypical depression may feel constant emptiness or emotional “numb.” This feeling may stay with you even when your mood gets better for a while.

Depression Fact Sheet

  • Definition: Depression is a common mental health disorder characterized by persistent sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, and a range of physical and cognitive symptoms. It affects how a person thinks, feels, and functions daily.
  • Prevalence: Depression is a global health concern, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds.
  • Symptoms: Common symptoms of depression include persistent sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite and weight, sleep disturbances, low energy levels, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
  • Risk Factors: Depression can be influenced by various factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, trauma, chronic medical conditions, certain medications, substance abuse, and significant life events such as loss or relationship problems. Women may be at a higher risk due to hormonal fluctuations, reproductive events, and societal pressures.
  • Impact: Depression can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, affecting their relationships, work or school performance, physical health, and overall well-being. It can also increase the risk of other health problems, including cardiovascular diseases.
  • Treatment: Depression is a treatable condition. Treatment options may include psychotherapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy), medication (such as antidepressants), or a combination of both. Lifestyle modifications, social support, and self-care practices are essential to manage depression.
  • Breaking the Stigma: Depression is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. It is a medical condition that requires understanding, compassion, and support. By promoting open conversations, raising awareness, and challenging stigmas associated with mental health, we can create a more supportive environment for individuals affected by depression.

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Statistics About Depression

Depression is a widespread mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. By examining key statistics related to depression, we can gain valuable insights into this disorder’s prevalence, impact, and significance. These statistics highlight the need for greater awareness, early intervention, and support systems to address the challenges faced by individuals living with depression.

21 million

An estimated 21.0 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 8.4% of all U.S. adults.

Source: National Institute on Mental Health


The prevalence of major depressive episodes was higher among adult females (10.5%) than males (6.2%).

Source: National Institute on Mental Health


The prevalence of adults with a major depressive episode was highest among individuals aged 18-25 (17.0%).

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

What Causes Atypical Depression?

No one knows for sure what makes atypical depression happen. It is thought to result from a complicated mix of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Here are some things that might make atypical depression more likely to happen:

  • Genes may play a role in atypical depression, just as they may play a role in other types of depression. People with a history of depression or mood disorders in their family may be more likely to get atypical depression.
  • Neurochemical imbalances: Depression may be caused by imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These imbalances may be why this type of depression has unusual symptoms.
  • Hormonal factors: Hormonal changes, like changes in estrogen and progesterone levels, may play a role in developing atypical depression. It happens more often in women, especially during reproductive times like pregnancy, the time after giving birth, and the time before menopause.
  • Seasonal changes: Some people with atypical depression may have a pattern where their symptoms worsen at certain times of the year, especially in the winter. This is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and it may be caused by less time in the sun and changes in the body’s natural rhythms.
  • Stressful life events, such as trauma, loss, or big changes in your life, can cause or make atypical depression symptoms worse. It can also start because of problems in personal relationships, stress at work, or money troubles.

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Atypical Depression Treatment

Atypical depression is usually treated with psychotherapy, medication, and ways to care for yourself. Some common ways to deal with atypical depression are listed below:

  • Psychotherapy: Talk therapy, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy (IPT), can help treat atypical depression. These therapies aim to find and change negative thought patterns, improve coping skills, and deal with emotional problems at their roots.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often the first antidepressants for people with atypical depression. Depending on the person’s needs and preferences, other types of antidepressants, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or atypical antidepressants, may also be considered.
  • Light therapy can help people with SAD, a type of atypical depression accompanying the seasons. Light boxes or lamps that give off bright light that looks like natural sunlight can help control mood and ease symptoms.
  • Lifestyle changes, such as working out regularly, eating well, and getting enough sleep, can positively affect mood and overall health. Setting up a daily routine, doing things that make you happy, and reducing stress can also help.
  • Support network: A strong support network of family, friends, or support groups can help you feel better emotionally and understand what you’re going through. Sharing stories and getting support from people who have been through or are going through similar problems can be comforting.

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Atypical Depression Diagnosis

  • Diagnostic criteria: The mental health professional will evaluate the person’s symptoms based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria, the standard way to classify mental health disorders.
  • Clinical interview: The mental health professional will talk to the person in depth to discover their symptoms, medical history, family history of mental health disorders, and anything important.
  • Differential diagnosis: The mental health professional will rule out other possible causes of the symptoms, such as other types of depression or medical conditions that may look like depressive symptoms.
  • Duration and effects: The severity and length of atypical depression are based on how long the symptoms last and how much they affect daily life.
  • Medical evaluation: In some cases, the mental health professional may ask for more medical tests or evaluations to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing the symptoms.

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  1. what is the difference between typical and atypical depression?

    Major depressive disorder (MDD) has two subtypes, typical depression, and atypical depression, that are very different. Atypical depression is marked by mood swings, sleeping more, eating more or putting on weight, and being sensitive to rejection. On the other hand, people with typical depression may always feel sad, sleep in different ways, and eat differently. Response to treatment can also differ, with some medications working better for people with atypical depression. Based on symptoms and a clinical evaluation, a professional diagnosis is needed to determine the exact subtype.

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Search We Level Up WA Atypical Depression, Overview Symptoms, Treatments, and Diagnosis Mental Health Topics & Resources
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