Before now, atypical depression was considered a form of depression; however, the American Psychiatric Association no longer recognizes it as an independent disorder. Instead, the condition is now regarded as significant depression with atypical features.
Major depressive disorder, also is known as MDD) is a mental health disorder that can affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People who have MDD often lose interest in activities that they usually enjoy and find it challenging to perform everyday tasks.
Occasionally, these people may feel suicidal and as if their life isn’t worth living. All of these symptoms may interfere with a person’s daily life and take a toll on both emotional and physical health.
MDD with atypical features that are a lot like those of classic MDD. Nevertheless, there is a significant difference. In individuals who have Major depressive disorder with atypical features, there can be an improvement in mood in response to positive events and circumstances.
In those with classic Major depressive disorder, a positive change is improbable to boost their mood.
Symptoms of Atypical Depression
The symptoms of major depressive disorder with atypical features may vary from one person to another. In general, however, people with the condition usually experience symptoms of MDD.
The symptoms include;
Anxiety or irritability
- Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
- Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- Thoughts or talk of suicide
- Low energy or fatigue
Other features they may experience include:
A mood that brightens or lits temporarily in response to good news or positive events
- Increase in appetite
- Significant weight gain
- Body aches or headaches
- Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
- An extreme negative response to perceived criticism or rejection
- Sleeping for extended periods during the day or night
Causes of Atypical Depression
At present, nobody knows the exact cause of MDD with atypical features. However, there are several factors that can raise the risk of developing this uncommon condition. Likely risk factors include:
- A history of abusing alcohol and drugs
- Traumatic experiences, such as the death of a loved one, physical abuse, or divorce
- Being diagnosed with a major illness
Sometimes, genetics may also have a role to play in the development of MDD. People with a family history of MDD have a higher likelihood of developing the condition.
MDD can also be triggered by an imbalance in brain chemicals responsible for mood regulation, such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
Atypical Depression Diagnosis
Make sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor if you think that you are dealing with MDD with atypical features. The doctor may have to complete a physical examination, as well as order some lab tests, such as a thyroid function test, and a complete blood count.
These tests can be used to check for potential health challenges that can be triggering your symptoms. The treatment of an underlying illness may help to improve your mood and also ease other symptoms that may be associated with MDD.
A doctor may also have to complete a psychological evaluation to check for signs of MDD with atypical features. The doctor may ask you questions about your:
- Personal life
- Past experiences
- Personal or family history
- Current medications
Your doctor may diagnose you with MDD with atypical features if:
- Your symptoms match the diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
- There is no underlying condition causing your symptoms
Treatment for Atypical Depression
There are various treatments for MDD with atypical features. However, in most cases, treatment includes a combination of talk therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes.
Your doctor may have to prescribe antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Some people who have been diagnosed with MDD with atypical features do not respond positively to tricyclic antidepressants.
However, the use of numerous MAOIs and SSRIs have been discovered useful in the treatment of symptoms of this disorder. Your doctor may have to prescribe one or a combination of medication to control the signs that you experience.
It is important to note that using an MAOI may require that you change your diet. These antidepressants are known to interact with certain medications and foods, including decongestants and birth control pills.
Make sure that you ask your doctor about possible side effects and likely diet or drug interactions before you start taking any new medication.
Talk therapy is another treatment method. It involves meeting with a counselor or therapist regularly. This is a type of treatment that allows you to:
- Identify unhealthy thoughts
- Learn how to problem solve
- Express your feelings
This can go a long way to help you cope with your condition and also improve your outlook. Your therapist can also take the needed steps to show you ways to set realistic life goals so that you can regain a sense of satisfaction and even take control of your life.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies for atypical depression
Aside from therapy and medication, lifestyle changes, as well as home remedies, may also help to relieve symptoms of Major depressive disorder with atypical features. These include:
- Exercising at least three times per week
- Avoiding recreational drugs and alcohol
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Taking certain supplements, such as fish oil and St. John’s wort
- implementing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation
Make sure that you consult with your doctor before you begin to take any supplements. Some natural remedies can interact with certain medications that are used for treating major depressive disorder.
Living with Atypical Depression
Medication, talk therapy, and lifestyle changes are very effective methods of treatment for Major depressive disorder with atypical features. However, there are many other ways for you to cope with symptoms:
- Try to write in a journal every day.
- Make efforts to plan ahead and manage your time well.
- Create time to participate in activities that help with stress management, such as tai chi, as yoga or meditation.
- Surround yourself with people who love you, such as family and friends, rather than isolating yourself.
- Confide in someone you trust.
Talk to your doctor about sharing information on local support groups for atypical depression.