Atypical Depression - Overview

Atypical depression is a form of depression that is difficult to diagnose and treat, since the warning signs and symptoms of this particular type of depression vary considerably as compared to clinical depression.

As the name suggests, persons suffering from such depression often do not show most of the signs and symptoms exhibited by depressed people. In fact, some of the signs and symptoms are contrary to what persons who have depression usually experience.

Studies also indicate that people suffering from the atypical form of depression have experienced some form of clinical depression earlier in life, and they themselves might not be in a position to understand or relate to their depressed condition when it presents in the atypical form. While this is a mild form of depression, it is not very uncommon and lots of people suffer from this condition. Like dysthymia, this too can last anywhere between one to two years, especially if it goes undiagnosed and untreated.

Research groups are also considering the possibility of atypical depression being classified as cyclothymia. Cyclothymia is a milder version of bipolar disorder, and the mood swings between the manic and depressive phases of people suffering from cyclothymia are not as severe as those suffering from bipolar disorder (or manic depression). One could say that, what dysthymia is to major depression / depressive disorder, cyclothymia is to bipolar disorder.


The causes of the atypical form of depression are just like any other form of clinical depression, which includes imbalance in brain chemistry where certain chemical substances which are responsible for transmitting signals in the brain and controlling the neurons are not produced at a normal level. Some of these chemicals are serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Some of the possible causes which trigger atypical depression in people are:

  • Genetic or hereditary causes, where there is one or more person in the family suffering from the condition.

  • The condition can also occur with other health ailments, such as hypothyroidism, where reduced thyroxin levels are responsible for depression and other symptoms.

  • Inability to cope with stress caused due to death of a loved one, disability, disease, and / or any other serious physiological condition.

  • Harboring feelings of guilt and / or shame post sexual or emotional abuse during childhood.

  • Substance abuse and alcoholism.

The above-mentioned are some of the typical causes that act as triggers for atypical depression in people. In general, biological factors, stress or emotional factors, and addictive habits could be responsible for this condition, especially for persons who have a family history or previous history of experiencing depression.

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