Atypical depression: How is it different from ‘regular’ depression?

Q.What is atypical depression? How is it different from "regular" depression?


Nearly 50 years ago, two English psychiatrists first described atypical depression — a type of depression that seemed to differ from classic forms of depression in both its symptoms and treatment. Experts in the field of psychiatric research continue to debate the finer points of this diagnosis. However, atypical depression is typically characterized by:

* Earlier onset of symptoms
* Overeating
* Oversleeping
* Mood reactivity

Mood reactivity refers to the observation that although people with atypical depression experience pervasive sadness, mood may improve or worsen in direct response to specific events. This is different from classically depressed individuals who experience persistent sadness.

In addition, some research suggests that an older class of drugs, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), may be more effective in treating atypical depression than newer drugs, including tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, research continues to try to define this more clearly.

Atypical depression is more common in women than in men. The exact cause of depression isn’t clear. But genetics and environmental factors play a role. If you are concerned that you or someone you know has atypical depression, seek help from a mental health professional.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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