Could You Have Atypical Depression?

When most of us think of depression, it calls to mind a persistent feeling of gloom and despair—one that doesn't quit no matter what happy events are occurring in a person's life.

While that is the scenario for most depression sufferers, it is by no means the case for all of them. Many depression sufferers have what's known as atypical depression. In fact, one study at Massachusetts General Hospital found that more than 40 percent of depression sufferers can be diagnosed with atypical depression.

What exactly is atypical depression, and how does it differ from the more traditional model of depression? Atypical depression simply is depression that doesn't follow the patterns of what we consider "normal" depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, what's notable about atypical depression is the sufferer's mood reactivity, or response to both positive and negative events.

While a person with normal depression feels overwhelming sadness all the time, a person with atypical depression may feel happy during happy events—such as evenings out with friends—and then slip into sadness later on, usually when alone. The onset of symptoms often occurs at an earlier age than with traditional depression, often in the teenage years. Symptoms include overeating and oversleeping instead of insomnia and weight loss.

People with atypical depression often report a heavy feeling in their bodies that makes them almost unable to move. They're also exquisitely sensitive to the merest hints of criticism and social slights, internalizing every encounter as a resounding personal rejection. This can make interpersonal relationships extremely difficult for the atypical-depression sufferer.

For unknown reasons, atypical depression is more common in women than men, and it has both a genetic and environmental component. Researchers often cite the breakup of a romantic relationship as an external event likely to set off atypical depression in a susceptible individual.

Atypical depression is especially responsive to an older class of antidepressant drugs known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs. Most people prefer newer drugs known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) because they have fewer side effects than MAOIs, but research is continuing in this area. Psychotherapy also is effective at reducing symptoms.




Mayo Clinic,,