Any type of depression can make you feel sad and keep you from enjoying life. However, atypical depression — also called depression with atypical features — means that your depressed mood can brighten in response to positive events. Other key symptoms include increased appetite, sleeping too much, feeling that your arms or legs are heavy, and feeling rejected.
Despite its name, atypical depression is not uncommon or unusual. It can affect how you feel, think and behave, and it can lead to emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living.
Treatment for atypical depression includes medication, talk therapy (psychotherapy) and lifestyle changes.
Symptoms of atypical depression can vary from person to person. Key signs and symptoms may include:
For some people, signs and symptoms of atypical depression can be severe, such as feeling suicidal or not being able to do basic day-to-day activities.
If you feel depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you can. Atypical depression may get worse if it isn't treated. If you're reluctant to seek treatment, talk to a friend or loved one, a health care professional, a faith leader, or someone else you trust.
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Also consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:
If a loved one or friend is in danger of attempting suicide or has made an attempt:
It's not known exactly what causes atypical depression or why some people have different features of depression. Atypical depression often starts in the teenage years, earlier than other types of depression, and can have a more long-term (chronic) course.
As with other types of depression, a combination of factors may be involved. These include:
Risk factors for atypical depression may include:
Your risk of atypical depression may also increase if you have:
Like other types of depression, atypical depression is a serious illness that can cause major problems. Atypical depression can result in emotional, behavioral and health problems that affect every area of your life.
For example, atypical depression can be associated with:
There's no sure way to prevent atypical depression, but these strategies may help.
These exams and tests can help your doctor rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms, determine a diagnosis and check for any related complications:
Medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy) are effective for most people with depression, including atypical depression. Your primary care doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. However, many people with atypical depression benefit from also seeing a psychologist or other mental health professional.
If you have severe depression, you may need a hospital stay or you may need to participate in an outpatient treatment program until your symptoms improve.
Here's a closer look at treatment options.
Types of medications for atypical depression can include:
Discuss possible benefits, risks and side effects of medications with your doctor and pharmacist. You may need to try several medications or a combination of medications before you find one that works. This requires patience, as some medications need several weeks or longer to take full effect and for side effects to ease as your body adjusts.
Psychotherapy — also known as talk therapy — is a general term for treating depression by talking about your condition and related issues with a mental health professional.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), as well as other types of psychotherapy, can help you:
As part of your treatment, it's important to also address other conditions that often accompany atypical depression, in particular anxiety and drug or alcohol misuse, as they can make your depression more difficult to treat.
Depression generally isn't an illness that you can treat on your own. But in addition to professional treatment, these self-care steps can help:
Make sure you understand the risks as well as possible benefits if you pursue alternative or complementary therapy. Don't replace conventional medical treatment or psychotherapy with alternative medicine. When it comes to depression, alternative treatments aren't a substitute for professional care.
Dietary supplements aren't monitored by the Food and Drug Administration the same way medications are. You can't always be certain of what you're getting and whether it's safe. Also, because some herbal and dietary supplements can interfere with prescription medications or cause dangerous interactions, talk with your health care provider before taking any supplements.
Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners believe the mind and body must be in harmony for you to stay healthy. Examples of mind-body techniques that may be helpful include relaxation techniques, exercise and spirituality.
Relying solely on these therapies is generally not enough to treat depression. However, they may be helpful when used in addition to medication and psychotherapy.
Talk with your doctor or therapist about improving your coping skills, and try these tips:
You may see your primary care doctor, or your doctor may refer you to a professional who specializes in mental health conditions. You may want to take a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who comes with you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
Before your appointment, make a list of:
Basic questions to ask your doctor may include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
Your doctor will likely ask you a number of questions, including:
Your doctor or mental health professional will ask additional questions based on your responses, symptoms and needs. Preparing and anticipating questions will help you make the most of your appointment time.