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What is Atypical Depressive Disorder?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Atypical depressive disorder, formally notated as depression with atypical features, is a specific form of depression that meets certain diagnostic standards. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals IV-TR (DSM), all who have this condition must experience elevated mood when favorable circumstances occur, like being happy when getting a puppy. They must also meet two of the following four descriptive characteristics: excessive sleep and tiredness, a feeling that the arms and legs are weighed down, large appetite and often weight gain, and profound oversensitivity to what they perceive as rejections, slights, or insults by others, so that relationships are either tumultuous or they are avoided. Diagnosis and treatment for this condition parallels that prescribed for other types of unipolar depression and shows some variance.

Other elements characterize atypical depressive disorder. Women more commonly suffer it than do men. It also tends to occur or be noticed first in adolescence or young adulthood. Since mood can improve when circumstances are favorable, people don’t always think of this condition as representing depression, though some features may be present whether or not a person is depressed. A person’s hypersensitivity to criticism can exist at all times and significantly affect the degree to which he or she can carry on successful interpersonal relations with others.

Talk therapy might be beneficial for those with atypical depressive disorder.
Talk therapy might be beneficial for those with atypical depressive disorder.

Those who think they may have atypical depressive disorder need diagnosis. In the best-case scenario, a person sees a psychiatrist and explains symptoms to this professional. Another route is to see a therapist or psychologist to find out if a visit to a psychiatrist is warranted. Debate about the best drug treatments exists; a number of antidepressants could be tried and sometimes it takes a while to find one that is most appropriate. Open communication with the prescribing doctor is very helpful, so a medication with minimal side effects can be found.

At the same time drug therapy is initiated, a person with atypical depressive disorder also benefits from some form of therapy. When clients have hypersensitivity to the reactions of others, certainly behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy can be very useful in learning how to reframe and think differently when negative communications occur. Talk therapy gives clients an avenue to comment on stressors in their lives that continue, such as poor relationships, sleepiness or extra weight gain. A combination of therapeutic methods may be employed, but the best outcome depends on the strength of the therapeutic alliance and not specific method.

The presentation of atypical depressive disorder at one point doesn’t necessarily mean new cycles of depression will take the same form, or that new cycles will occur. It’s possible for people to be diagnosed with depression with atypical features once, and then have a new diagnosis if depression takes another form the next time it emerges. Whether or not it is fully cured once its symptoms are absent is debatable. Some people may never have depression again, but other people will find their disease recurs and they require continued support.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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    • Talk therapy might be beneficial for those with atypical depressive disorder.
      By: WavebreakMediaMicro
      Talk therapy might be beneficial for those with atypical depressive disorder.