ALERTS & COVID-19 UPDATES Learn more: COVID-19 Resources; COVID-19 Testing; Vaccine Info; Visitor Policy; Support Us

Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by Scholten A
(Depression with Atypical Features)

Definition

Depression is a lasting low mood and lack of interest in doing things. In atypical depression, mood may improve for a short time. There are other symptoms that often do not occur with depression.

Causes

The exact cause of atypical depression is not known. It is probably due to changes in brain chemistry. Genes and environment likely play a role.

The Brain
Brain Man Face
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this condition are:

  • Prior mental illness
  • Drug or alcohol use disorder
  • Long term illness, such as cancer
  • Stress or trauma
  • Depression runs in the family
  • A history of abuse
  • Certain medicines
  • Lack of support

Symptoms

People with atypical depression have depression with short periods of improved mood. Mood gets better when something positive happens. It then goes back to being low. Other symptoms may be:

  • Eating too much
  • Sleeping too much
  • Arms or legs feel heavy
  • Feeling rejected

Diagnosis

There are no tests to diagnose this condition. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history.

The doctor may give questionnaires. A physical exam and other tests may be done. They can help rule out other causes.

Treatment

The goal is to improve mood and ease other symptoms. Options are:

  • Medicines for depression—they may take 2 to 6 weeks to work best
  • Counseling —to help with coping
  • Physical activity—to help ease symptoms

Prevention

Depression cannot always be prevented. However, the risk of symptoms may be lowered by:

  • Getting mental health care, if needed
  • Finding supportive people
  • Learning skills to reduce stress
  • Getting plenty of sleep, exercise, and leisure
  • Not abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

RESOURCES

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance  http://www.dbsalliance.org 

Mental Health America  http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Mental Health Association  https://cmha.ca 

Canadian Psychiatric Association  http://www.cpa-apc.org 

References

Atypical depression. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atypical-depression/basics/definition/con-20035114. Accessed March 9, 2021.

Depression in older adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/depression-in-older-adults. Accessed March 9, 2021.

Juruena MF, Bocharova M, et al. Atypical depression and non-atypical depression: Is HPA axis function a biomarker? A systematic review. J Affect Disord. 2018;233:45-67.

Major depressive disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/major-depressive-disorder-mdd. Accessed March 9, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
  • Review Date: 01/2021
  • Update Date: 03/09/2021