Atypical Depression


Atypical depression, despite its name, is actually the most common subtype of major depression distinguished by moody reactivity.

A person with this condition can experience enhanced mood in reaction to positive events. This form of depression is a type that can overpower a person almost to the point of emotional paralysis, oftentimes set off by perceived rejections, as well as real rejections that even constructive criticisms can be taken as a personal insult.

Generally, atypical depression tends to cause a bigger functional impairment and have a propensity to occur earlier in life than other forms of depression, usually starting in teenage years. In the same way, people who suffer from atypical depression are more expected to suffer from other mental illness such as avoidant personality disorder, social phobia, or body dysmorphic disorder. This form of depression is more common in women with nearly seventy percent of atypical depression population are females.

People with atypical depression may eat too much and turn to the comfort of foods. Additionally, they could sleep for more than ten hours and it is hard for them to get out of bed. They also feel sluggish that even the ordinary tasks can seem too complicated and weighty.


The diagnosis of atypical depression is based on the criterias stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). DSM-5 defines Atypical Depression as a subtype of major depressive disorder that presents with atypical features, characterized by:

  1. Mood reactivity (i.e., mood brightens in response to actual or potential positive events)
  2. At least two of the following:
    • Significant weight gain or increase in appetite (hyperphagia);
    • Hypersomnia (sleeping too much, as opposed to the insomnia present in melancholic depression);
    • Leaden paralysis (i.e., heavy feeling resulting in difficulty moving the arms or legs);
    • Long-standing pattern of interpersonal rejection sensitivity (not limited to episodes of mood disturbance) that results in significant social or occupational impairment.
  3. Criteria are not met for With Melancholic Features or With Catatonic Features during the same episode.

Many symptoms of atypical depression are opposite to those of other depression forms, such as the tendency to overeat and oversleep in contrast to people with depression who can’t eat or sleep. Specialists have associated atypical depression to other psychiatric problems, but only experts can diagnose one with this form of depression. A lot of people with this condition abuse drugs or alcohol.

For people who are unsure if they are suffering from the illness, it is recommended seeing a doctor and also checking to see for these symptoms: sleeping more than ten hours, cyclical depressive mood, emotional sensitivity to criticism and rejection, feelings of lethargy and emotional paralysis, and increased appetite and food cravings for carbohydrates.

People who have atypical depression are at a bigger risk for more serious and sudden major depression. Some people do not know that they have this condition because of feeling depressed all the time, and hide their symptoms by working harder, analyzing failed relationships, going on diets, and staying on rigid schedule, however, they have only covered up the illness but not cured it.

People diagnosed with the condition are recommended taking antidepressants to control the symptoms, it is important to take note that although antidepressants are often the first line of treatment, there are other safe alternatives that one can discuss with their health care provider before using prescription drugs with side-effects. Seeing a psychiatrist to sort out the problem is one option, but make sure to get a referral from an expert.