Do you feel happy in positive situations yet slip into a dark, depressed mood as soon as you feel alone or rejected? You may be suffering from Atypical Depression. Although its name implies Atypical Depression is unusual, it is actually one of the most common types of depression. What distinguishes Atypical Depression from other types of depression is what's called "mood reactivity," meaning sufferers experience both high or lows depending upon a particular situation. In contrast to most types of depression where sufferers may experience persistent sadness and an inability to enjoy normal activities even when good things happen, people with Atypical Depression experience pleasure in positive interactions or events, along with brightening of their mood. People with Atypical Depression also tend to be extremely sensitive and react intensely to any situation they perceive as negative. As a result, they may experience severe depressive symptoms in response to rejection of a friend or lover, or even constructive criticism from a coworker. Other common symptoms of Atypical Depression include: overeating accompanied by cravings for carbohydrates and sweets, weight gain, oversleeping, and what is often described as a "leaden-like" quality that may make sufferers feel weighed down and unable to move. Atypical Depression often begins in adolescence and, untreated, may continue into adulthood. As a result, people with this form of depression are often unaware of their mood swings, and may also be at an increased risk for panic attacks or a major depressive episode. While the precise cause of Atypical Depression is unknown, experts have identified numerous factors that may play a role in its development including: a family history of depression; previous mental, physical or sexual abuse; and alcohol or drug abuse. Atypical depression also occurs significantly more frequently in women than in men, with more than 70 percent of sufferers being female. Atypical Depression has also been associated with changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, which helps regulate mood and emotions. Like other forms of depressive illness, Atypical Depression can interfere with daily life. For example, oversleeping and sluggishness may affect home and work responsibilities, while mood swings can cause difficulties in personal and professional relationships. Often, the first step in resolving Atypical Depression is seeing your family doctor, who can rule out medical causes like low levels of thyroid hormone, which can cause depression and weight gain. Based on the results, you may be referred to a mental health professional. Diagnosing Atypical Depression involves meeting criteria stated by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM IV-TR manual. The criteria include the presence of a depressed mood that readily improves in positive situations, plus any two common symptoms of Atypical Depression: interpersonal rejection, sensitivity, oversleeping, overeating and leaden paralysis. Treatment typically begins with medication, such as Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are believed to be the most effective in treating Atypical Depression. Experts believe medication is most effective in combination with psychotherapy. If you or someone you know may have Atypical Depression, please see your doctor or a mental health professional.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012