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Understanding the Atypical Depression

There are many types of depression, but atypical depression is among the most common. There are many similarities and differences between the two disorders, so a proper diagnosis and an effective treatment program require an understanding of the specific causes and symptoms.

What Is Atypical Depression?

The term atypical depression refers to any type of depression in which a person feels sad, finds it difficult to enjoy life, and has adverse effects on his or her moods. According to research, atypical depression is not a mental disorder; some researchers claim that symptoms of this type of depression are vague and therefore can't be categorized as a mental disorder.

Atypical depression presents with mild to severe symptoms depending on the individual. Those suffering from atypical depression may experience mild sadness that subsides at the first sign of positive events or news. Atypical depression may also lead to increased appetite, excessive sleeping during the day, or arm or leg heaviness. An individual suffering from atypical depression can experience suicidal thoughts and have trouble coping with everyday life.

Researchers believe that the onset of atypical depression may start in one's early 20s, but some studies indicate that symptoms may begin at any age. Researchers also found that patients in psychiatric outpatient clinics tend to experience atypical depression more often than other types of depression. Additionally, the research found that an atypical depression can occur simultaneously with Major Depressive Disorder, and that atypical depression occurs more often in women than males.

The warning signs of any atypical depression symptoms should get you or your loved one help if you think you are suffering from this condition. The symptoms of atypical depression can escalate quickly, but people who seek medical care can discover the source of these symptoms and receive appropriate treatment.

Patients undergo a physical exam to discover if they are suffering from assorted depression symptoms due to atypical depression. During the exam, any physical illnesses can be ruled out, and any symptoms of a patient are uncovered. Additionally, lab tests are used to test a patient’s thyroid. Lab tests can confirm that the thyroid is functioning correctly because it is responsible for mood, metabolism, and other body processes. Psychology may also be used to verify thyroid function. Through this evaluation, the patient can share thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns related to depression.

Different treatment options are explored once a patient's depression symptoms have been assessed. There are many treatments available for atypical depression, including medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.

MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) are often prescribed to treat atypical depression, and they can assist patients suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression symptoms. Some atypical depression treatments include the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). There is considerable evidence that SSRIs are as effective as MAOIs in treating atypical depression, but more research is necessary to determine their efficacy.

A typical depression patient is encouraged to discuss atypical depression symptoms and explore strategies for coping with them during psychotherapy. Atypical depression may be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but other types of counseling are also available. A number of studies have found that psychotherapy may offer an alternative to MAOIs and other medications for treating atypical depression symptoms.

The earlier an individual explores treatment options for atypical depression or any other form of depression, the better. When an individual begins to experience depression symptoms, he or she should seek medical attention. During this process, the individual can discover whether his or her depression is caused by atypical depression, or if there are other medical conditions contributing to the depression.

What Is the Best Way to Treat Atypical Depression?

Atypical depression, Major Depressive Disorder, and any other type of depression can be treated differently based on the individual's symptoms and needs. It is vital to undergo comprehensive testing and to receive a personalized depression treatment.

When treating depression and managing symptoms, medication, psychotherapy, neuromodulation, and lifestyle changes can all be used together. Lifestyle changes can be helpful in treating atypical depression or MDD symptoms in combination with other therapies, for example:

  • Establish a routine for exercising: The antidepressant effects of exercise are shown to decrease depression symptoms when practiced for at least 20 minutes a day, three days a week.
  • Become mindful: Meditation and mindfulness exercises like yoga can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and promote mood regulation by focusing exclusively on the present moment. 
  • Keep a journal: It has been shown in one study that journaling helps a depressed person cope with depression thoughts and feelings, and that expressive writing reduces depression levels in MDD patients.

Additionally to dietary and lifestyle changes, deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) offers a breakthrough treatment for severe depression. Magnetic pulses are used in dTMS therapy to accelerate neural activity and alleviate depression symptoms. Plus, unlike other treatments for depression, dTMS therapy is noninvasive, does not require anesthesia or electrical stimulation, and causes no downtime.

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