Atypical depression

Perhaps the most common misconception related to depression is that there are only two kinds of depression. These two are a mild form of depression that is sometimes experienced from time to time and serious clinical depression, the more serious, long-lasting type of depression that doesn’t pass on its own and needs to be treated with clinical methods like therapy or medication.

Most people don’t realize there are several different types of depression with different causes, not all of which are fully understood. Some examples of different types of depression include:

  • Atypical depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Postpartum depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder

At this time Atypical depression is one of the least well-known and most misunderstood types of depression.

Causes of Atypical Depression

It’s often difficult to point to a single cause of any type of depression – it’s often more of a combination of several factors that lead a person to become depressed. Most forms f depression are thought to be caused by an impairment of the brain neuropathways that regulate mood and allow communication between different parts of the brain. It is important to note that depression is not believed to be entirely chemical. Life events, as well as life style factors are thought to trigger depressive episodes.

Risk Factors

  • Alcohol or drug use
  • A history of abuse
  • A serious illness like cancer or heart disease
  • Experiencing a significant loss
  • Interpersonal conflict
  •  Undergoing a significant life change such as a divorce or long-distance move
  • A family history of depression is also a risk factor for developing depression.

Signs of Atypical Depression

The signs of atypical depression are part of what differentiates it from other forms of depression. Those who experience atypical depression differ from those with major depressive disorder;  they tend to have strongly reactive moods, so if something positive happens, their mood will become more positive, at least temporarily. With other forms of depression, the depressed person usually remains depressed even when experiencing positive life events. Symptoms may include:

  • Excessive sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Overeating and weight gain
  • The sense that the body is weighed down or that limbs are especially heavy


People who suffer from atypical depression are likely to suffer from certain co-occurring disorders like bulimia, panic disorder, and certain phobias. People who have atypical features are also unusually sensitive to social rejection and may have difficulty with relationships because of this sensitivity.

To diagnose atypical depression, clinicians look for mood reactivity in combination with at least two of the four other most common symptoms of atypical depression: the excessive sleeping, the weight gain or overeating, the feeling of being weighed down, and the rejection sensitivity. Doctors will often do tests to rule out other physical conditions, like thyroid problems, before arriving at a diagnosis.

Treatment Options

Major depression is often treated with medications; Dialectical Behavior Therapy  (DBT) and other forms of “talk therapy” can be an effective method of treatment for those with symptoms of atypical depression