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What is Atypical Depression

What is Atypical Depression

Depression is a complex mental health disorder that manifests in various forms. One form is atypical depression, a subtype of major depressive disorder (MDD) characterized by specific symptoms that differentiate it from typical depression. Understanding atypical depression is crucial for effective diagnosis and treatment. At Atlanta Integrative Psychiatry, we understand atypical depression, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive overview to help you recognize and manage this condition.

If you believe that you are struggling with untreated depression of any kind, we are available to help. Call us today or schedule a consultation to learn more about our most effective treatment options.

Symptoms of Atypical Depression

Atypical depression presents a unique set of symptoms that can vary significantly from those of typical depression. If you believe you might be struggling with atypical depression, keep an eye out for the hallmark symptoms listed below. 

  1. Mood Reactivity: Unlike typical depression, individuals with atypical depression experience a temporary lift in mood in response to positive events. This mood reactivity can make it challenging to recognize the underlying depressive disorder.
  2. Increased Appetite and Weight Gain: People with depression with atypical features. often experience increased appetite, leading to significant weight gain. This is in contrast to typical depression, which commonly results in loss of appetite and weight loss.
  3. Excessive Sleepiness: Known as hypersomnia, excessive sleepiness is a prominent symptom of atypical depression. Individuals may sleep for long periods, yet still feel tired and unrefreshed.
  4. Leaden Paralysis: This term describes a heavy, leaden feeling in the arms or legs that can last for an hour or more. It contributes to the overall sense of fatigue and lethargy.
  5. Interpersonal Rejection Sensitivity: Individuals with atypical depression often exhibit heightened sensitivity to rejection or criticism from others. This can lead to significant social impairment and avoidance of social interactions.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of atypical depression is not fully understood, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. 

Key risk factors include:

  1. Genetic Predisposition: A family history of depression or other mood disorders can increase the risk of developing depression.
  2. Biological Factors: Imbalances in neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are thought to play a role in depression.
  3. Environmental Stressors: Traumatic life events, chronic stress, and significant life changes can trigger the onset of depression.
  4. Psychological Factors: Individuals with certain personality traits, such as high sensitivity to rejection and negative thinking patterns, may be more prone to developing atypical depression.

Diagnosis of Atypical Depression

Diagnosing atypical depression involves a thorough evaluation by a mental health professional. The process typically includes:

  • Clinical Interview: A detailed interview to assess the individual’s symptoms, medical history, and family history of mental health disorders.
  • Symptom Assessment: Using standardized diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the clinician evaluates the presence and severity of depression symptoms.
  • Physical Examination: A physical exam may be conducted to rule out other medical conditions that could be causing the symptoms.
  • Psychological Testing: Various psychological tests and questionnaires can help further assess the individual’s mental health status.

Treatment Options for Atypical Depression

Effective treatment for atypical depression often involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. The primary treatment options include:


  • Antidepressants: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are commonly prescribed for depression. These medications help balance neurotransmitter levels in the brain.
  • Atypical Antidepressants: Medications such as bupropion can be effective, particularly for individuals who do not respond well to SSRIs or MAOIs.


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a widely used therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to depression.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): IPT focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and communication skills, which can be beneficial for those with heightened rejection sensitivity.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity has been shown to improve mood and overall mental health.
  • Healthy Diet: A balanced diet can support brain health and improve energy levels.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Establishing a regular sleep schedule and creating a restful sleep environment can help manage hypersomnia.

Our Outpatient Atypical Depression Treatment Options

At Atlanta Integrative Psychiatry we offer a comprehensive range of outpatient treatment options tailored to individuals experiencing various types of depression, including depression with atypical features. Our goal is to provide evidence-based and compassionate care to help you achieve mental well-being.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy

TMS Therapy uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, offering relief from depressive symptoms, particularly for those who have not responded to traditional treatments.

Ketamine Therapy

Ketamine Therapy is an innovative treatment that works by blocking NMDA receptors in the brain, helping to alleviate symptoms of depression quickly and effectively.


Our psychotherapy services involve working with a qualified mental health professional to explore and address thoughts, feelings, and behaviors contributing to this form of depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) are commonly used modalities.

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing helps us understand how your genetic makeup affects your response to medications, allowing for a more personalized and effective treatment plan.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

MAT involves the use of medications, alongside counseling and behavioral therapies, to treat depression and other co-occurring mental health conditions.

Nutritional Services

Our nutritional services focus on promoting mental health through balanced diet and nutrition, which can play a significant role in managing depression.

Individual Therapy

One-on-one therapy sessions with our experienced therapists help you develop coping strategies, build resilience, and work through personal challenges.

Learn More About Atypical Depression Treatment in Atlanta 

Atypical depression is a distinct form of depression with unique symptoms that require specialized attention for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Understanding the specific characteristics can help individuals and healthcare providers identify the condition early and implement appropriate interventions. With the right combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes, individuals with atypical depression can achieve significant improvement in their symptoms and overall quality of life.

Our compassionate team is here to provide the support and treatment you need to manage this condition effectively. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression with atypical features, call us today or schedule a consultation at Atlanta Integrative Psychiatry in Atlanta, Ga.

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