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Atypical depression

Atypical depression is a type of depression which is very similar to Major Depression and the difference is just a number of symptoms (reduced number of symptoms) – usually very particular pattern of symptoms tends to occur. Most typical symptoms of not typical depression include: 1) increased appetite (on-going hunger) and weight gain; 2) sleep disturbances (sleepiness or excessive sleep); 3) heavy feelings of arms and legs during and after sleep; 4) feeling anxious, problematic relationships and increased sensitivity (fear) to rejection.

Some scientists consider atypical depression as a sub-type of major depression or sub-type of Dysthymia with certain specific characteristics.

Unfortunately this type of depression is more common in women than men – usually women feel unhappy and “down” and cannot enjoy life more often.

Risk factors

Atypical Depression

According to medical studies, there are several risk factors which could increase the possibility of this type of depression development:

  • Family history of depression;
  • Female origin – atypical depression is pretty common for women;
  • Episode of depression in childhood or teen ages;
  • Episodes of child abuse;
  • Family history of alcoholism;
  • Suicidal attempts in family members;
  • Severe stress experiences;
  • Postpartum depression;
  • Social and/or financial failure;
  • Loneliness, social isolation and decreased self-esteem;
  • Life threatening diseases (cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.);
  • Alcohol or nicotine or drugs addiction;
  • Certain medications (sleeping pills, psychosomatic drugs, pills for blood pressure, etc.).


The main cause of this type depression could be considered the imbalance of very specific chemicals (called “neurotransmitters”) in the brain – mainly dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Disturbed functions of neurotransmitters in the brain could trigger A-typical depression.

Most medical professionals suggested that A-typical depression is a result of combination of factors including brain chemistry, inherited predispositions, stressful life events and abuse in childhood.


Atypical depression symptoms could be similar to symptoms of major depression but during major depression women should have at least five symptoms at the same time. Atypical Depression is characterized with limited numbers of symptoms (could be 2-3 symptoms only) but symptoms are very specific.

Very often symptoms of A-typical depression start at an early age, during their teenage years. The main characteristic of atypical depression that distinguishes it from major depression is mood reactivity – when positive events or positive atmosphere always trigger positive mood changes.

It is well known that women with Atypical Depression should have at least two of the following symptoms to accompany the mood reactivity:

  • Increased appetite (on-going hunger) and weight gain;
  • Sleep disturbances (increased desire to sleep, sleepiness or excessive sleep);
  • Heavy feelings of arms and legs during and after sleep;
  • Feeling anxious;
  • Problematic relationships and increased sensitivity (fear) to rejection;
  • Feelings of being weighed down, paralyzed or “leaden”;
  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness or feeling tearful;
  • Lost interest in life activities which were pleasurable earlier.

Atypical Depression treatment

There are few effective methods for treatment used during Atypical Depression including:

  • Psychotherapy (talk therapy),
  • Depression medications,
  • Diet-therapy,
  • Alternative medicine.

Treatment of Atypical Depression should be monitored by qualified experts.

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