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Atypical depression: symptoms, causes and treatments

Atypical depression: symptoms, causes and treatments

March 29, 2024

Atypical depression It is a type of depression that accounts for the complexity of this group of mental disorders. It is a sign that what we popularly call "being depressed" is a complex psychological phenomenon that can be expressed under a great variety of symptoms that can be classified in different ways.

Next we will see what are the symptoms of atypical depression, what characteristics differentiate it from other types of depression and what kind of treatments have proven effective to intervene in these cases.

  • Related article: "Are there several types of depression?"

What is atypical depression?

Atypical depression is a depressive disorder that, despite presenting many of the characteristics of major depression, also expresses other atypical and infrequent symptoms in this kind of psychopathological disorder .

For example, although the main symptoms of this group of disorders are present in atypical depression, such as sadness or anhedonia and abulia, other signs and symptoms also appear, such as an exaggerated reaction to events perceived as negative, an extreme increase of sleep and the need to sleep, etc.

Generally speaking, atypical depression It is considered not very prevalent, that is, rare and rarely diagnosed . Most cases of depression receive another diagnosis.

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Symptoms of atypical depression

The symptoms of atypical depression can be very varied, especially considering the infrequency with which it is diagnosed. Among the signs and symptoms most related to this type of depression are the following.

1. Hypersomnia

The person feels a deep need to sleep, which causes psychosocial and labor problems because it interferes with your work. This also produces greater isolation, and negatively affects the possibility of developing motivating projects.

In the end, the problems to organize a schedule, as well as the lack of social life that is a consequence of hypersomnia, make the day to day of the person with atypical depression become increasingly monotonous, lacking in novel stimuli.

2. Hypersensitivity

Many people who have atypical depression feel that any indication means that there is a negative situation for them . For example, an ambiguous reaction from another person is interpreted as a sign of rejection or ridicule, or a relative failure, such as not arriving on time to a bus that has already started, is seen as a sign that the day will be catastrophic .

But nevertheless, this reactivity usually appears also in the face of positive events , although to a lesser degree than that expressed in unpleasant situations. This ability to react relatively happily to positive situations is something that does not occur in most cases of depression, and is one of the hallmarks of atypical depression.

3. Extreme increase in appetite

In major depression, it is typical for patients to experience a significant decrease in the sensation of hunger, coupled with a general attitude of passivity and lack of initiative.

In atypical depression, however, hyperphagia is relatively frequent , very associated with psychological states marked by an excess of anxiety. That is why binge eating and frequent visits to the fridge, which appear as a form of compensation behavior, can become a distraction from those thoughts that generate anxiety.

4. Extreme tiredness

Many of the patients with this type of depression feel a depression that leads them to stay a long time in a resting state in a bed or sofa. This, at the same time, helps them feel more isolated and alone , which feeds the vicious circle of depression. The lack of energy is expressed in all facets of life, from work life to social life and attention to the basic needs of food, hygiene and home care.

5. Anxious States

This is a group of symptoms related to anxiety states typical of other mental disorders and that, in the case of depressive disorders, are much less common. For example, the person with atypical depression may feel anxious to be aware of their poor state, or may worry a lot about the image that is giving in front of others. This feeling of discomfort adds to the damage to the quality of life produced by the symptoms typically associated with depression.

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Its causes

As occurs in most mental disorders, the reason why atypical depression appears it has to do with multicausal phenomena . This means that in their existence biological and genetic elements participate, but also cultural and, in addition, factors associated with the dynamics learned from interaction with the environment and with other people.

For example, a traumatic event can trigger genetically latent biological processes, and the way in which this experience is lived will be influenced by the culture that has been internalized and by the learnings and customs. Neither environment nor genetics are uniquely responsible for atypical depression.


The psychotherapeutic intervention It is very relevant in the treatment of atypical depression, since it allows patients to train in a large number of habits and social skills that will allow them to improve their quality of life (without completely eliminating the symptoms).

Specifically, cognitive behavioral therapies allow us to act both in everyday behavioral habits and in ideas, beliefs and thought styles, to achieve effects both in actions linked to movement and interaction with the environment and in the mind and way of thinking. the one who perceives and interprets what is happening.

As for treatment with psychotropic drugs, this is also common in medical intervention in cases of atypical depression, especially taking into account the severity of this disorder and the way in which it affects virtually all areas of personal and work life.

The most commonly used medications are usually antidepressants , such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Both are drugs whose use can only be initiated by medical prescription, and their consumption must be monitored by expert personnel in mental health and psychiatry.

  • Related article: "Types of antidepressants: characteristics and effects"

Major Depressive Disorder | Clinical Presentation (March 2024).

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