Atypical Depression – Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatment

Atypical depression is basically a subtype of clinical depression. It exhibits less severe and fewer number of symptoms than clinical depression. This type of depression differs from major depression. The patient may also experience moments of happiness sometimes.

The symptoms of atypical depression may last for months or even stay forever. The mood of the patients is governed by the outside events like success or failure, etc.

Causes of Atypical Depression

Chemical imbalance in the brain is responsible for causing Depression in the patients. The changes in the level of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and nor-epinephrine are supposed to cause depression.

Risk factors for Atypical Depression

  • Feeling of Guilt or worthlessness
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Family history of depression
  • Significant loss due to death, divorce, or separation
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Unfortunate life event such as losing a job, retiring, etc
  • Serious illness like cancer, heart disease, stroke, or HIV
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Isolation from family, friends, or other social groups

Symptoms of Atypical Depression

The atypical depression differs from major depression in terms of its mood reactivity. Usually, patient with atypical depression will feel better if case something positive happens. However, mood of patients with major depression does not improve with any positive changes.

Apart from feeling better temporarily in event of positive life changes, a patient diagnosed with atypical depression must have any two of the following criteria.

Common Symptoms of Atypical Depression

  • Excessive sleeping (hypersomnia)
  • Excessive eating (hyperphagia)
  • feeling of heaviness in the limbs
  • Weight gain
  • Increased reactivity
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection at social and work relationships
  • Feeling of being weighed down

Treatment of Atypical Depression

Psychiatrists recommend combination of various therapies for obtaining optimal results in patients with atypical depression.

The patients of atypical depression usually do not respond to tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) (older class of drugs).  Psychiatrists recommend antidepressants as the suitable treatment for atypical depression.

  • Antidepressants including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

MAOI drugs including selegiline, isocarboxzaid, phenelzine and tranylcypromine

SSRIs including fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine, escitalopram, fluvoxamine, citalopram

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy/ Psychotherapy
  • Physical exercise
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • Vagus nerve stimulation
  • Tran cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
  • Light therapy
  • Lifestyle and home remedies
  • Alternative medicine including Herbal remedies and supplements