What Is Atypical Depression? 5 Common Symptoms

Some experts believe that atypical depression is actually a subgroup of depression that occurs in response to negative life events.

atypical depression

Oversleeping is one of the common symptoms of atypical depression.

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It seems there are nearly as many symptoms of depression as there are people with depression. After all, everyone experiences low moods differently. Experts continue to recognize certain clusters of symptoms of depression that tend to be seen together, and sometimes they label these clusters as a specific form of depression because of the unique way it manifests, how long it is likely to last, or which treatments it is likely to respond to. One of these clusters is a group of depression symptoms that together are known as atypical depression.

What Is Atypical Depression? Laying Out Symptoms

A good atypical depression test may be to determine if you have some or all of the following depression symptoms:

  1. A tendency to gain weight and crave carbohydrates (such as cereal, bread, pasta, and sweets)
  2. A tendency to oversleep, often getting 10 hours a night or more.
  3. The experience of heavy sensations in their limbs (“leaden paralysis”).
  4. The tendency to become less depressed, though only transiently, when exposed to pleasurable events (mood reactivity).
  5. The tendency to have enhanced reactions to criticism or rejection (rejection sensitivity).

Some experts also call this type of depression “depression with atypical features.” Either way, the name is a little bit misleading, since it is actually a fairly common manifestation of depression and is not really “atypical.” Signs and symptoms of atypical depression can also occur in combination with other types of depression.

How to Treat Atypical Depression

As with other forms of depression, living with atypical depression is possible. Atypical depression treatment can be done with psychotherapy and medication. Some experts believe that atypical depression is actually a subgroup of depression that occurs in response to negative life events, which is known as reactive depression.

If this is the case, atypical depression may be particularly amendable to treatments that involve learning practical approaches to improving one’s life situation, such as one’s relationships or job satisfaction, or to treatments aimed at helping one accept one’s life the way it is and concentrate more on positive feelings and experiences than negative ones. Fortunately, many forms of psychotherapy teach these exact skills. If you believe you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms, it is important to seek help with depression.

For further reading on depression solutions, see these University Health News posts:

Originally published in May 2016 and updated.

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Alison Palkhivala

Alison Palkhivala is an award-winning writer and journalist specializing in lifestyle, nutrition, health, and medicine. She has authored the Belvoir special report Overcoming Depression and the University Health News book … Read More

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