Atypical depression (dysthymic disorder) is a form of major depression characterized by a few particular symptoms that vary from those typical of major depression. Those can include appetite increase or weight gain and temporary improvement in mood in response to positive events. People suffering from atypical depression may also experience intense reactions to circumstances in their environment. Here are more details to help you recognize the condition and be aware of effective treatment for atypical depression.
What is Atypical Depression?
Atypical depression (dysthymic disorder) is a persistent depressive disorder (chronic major depression). It is a major depression with some symptoms that vary from the traditional description. In many cases, atypical depression begins in the teen years. It is defined as being in a depressed mood most of the time for two years or more (one year for adolescents and children) and having five or more of the symptoms listed below.
As mentioned, a symptom of atypical depression may be temporary improvements in mood caused by positive information or events. That differs from melancholic depression, in which positive events rarely cause mood improvement.
Atypical Depression Symptoms
One or two Atypical depression signs and symptoms may not be individual causes for concern. However, is someone with major depression exhibits five or more of these symptoms, that may indicate a major depressive disorder that may be atypical depression:
- Major appetite change
- Major weight gain or loss
- Disinterest in once-favorite activities
- Excessive sleep
- Sense of hopelessness
- Sense of worthlessness
- Persistent guilt feelings
- Difficulty focusing
- Difficulty making decisions
- Extreme sensitivity to rejection
- Persistent thoughts, plans, or attempts of suicide
Atypical Depression Cause
Depression may be linked to abnormal brain functioning in neural circuits that prevents normal communication with others. Nerve cells in the faulty circuits do not transmit signals through neurotransmitters that deliver the needed natural chemicals for overcoming depression: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Antidepressant medicines may help brain chemicals work better. Your doctor may run tests for hypothyroidism as part of an overall diagnostic effort in lieu of an atypical depression test per se.
Risk Factors for Atypical Depression
The specific cause of atypical depression is not yet certain, but there are risk factors for depression that have been associated with dysthymia, including:
- Family history of depression
- Social isolation and biological contributors to depression
- Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
- Divorce, death, or other major loss
- A major life event, like relocating, job loss, retiring
- Cancer, HIV, or another serious disease
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Conflicts that trigger guilt feelings
- Hypothyroidism, low levels of thyroid hormone
Atypical Depression Treatment
Depending on how severe your symptoms are, your doctor may recommend psychotherapy (talk therapy) and/or medications to treat your depression. Various options in psychotherapy and medications are used to treat atypical depression. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health treatment specialist. That may mean seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist. Outpatient and inpatient treatment for atypical depression.