Atypical Depression

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Any type of depression can make you feel sad and keep you from enjoying life. However, if you have atypical depression, certain key signs and symptoms tend to occur. These include increased hunger, weight gain, sleeping a lot, feeling that your arms and legs are heavy, and difficulty maintaining relationships.

 

It's not known exactly what causes atypical depression. As with other types of depression, a combination of factors may be involved. These include:

  • Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression. When these chemicals are out of balance, it may lead to depression symptoms.
  • Inherited traits. Depression is more common in people whose biological relatives also have the condition.
  • Life events. Events such as the death or loss of a loved one, financial problems, and high stress can trigger depression in some people.
  • Early childhood trauma. Traumatic events during childhood, such as abuse or loss of a parent, may cause changes in the brain that make you more susceptible to depression.

Symptoms:

Depression of any kind can cause feelings of sadness and a decreased ability to enjoy life. But atypical depression includes these main signs and symptoms:

  • Depression that temporarily lifts when you're cheered up by good news or positive events but returns later
  • Increased appetite with unintentional weight gain
  • Increased desire to sleep
  • Heavy, feeling in your arms and legs that lasts an hour or more in a day
  • Trouble maintaining long-lasting relationships because of sensitivity to rejection or criticism, which affects your relationships, social life or job

Many factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering depression, whether it's atypical or not. Risk factors include:

  • Depression that started when you were a teen or child
  • History of bipolar disorder
  • Abuse of alcohol or illegal drugs
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Traumatic childhood experiences
  • Certain personality traits, such as low self-esteem or being overly dependent
  • Serious illness, such as cancer or heart disease
  • Certain medications, such as some high blood pressure medications or sleeping pills
  • Financial problems

Treatment:

Treatment for atypical depression is generally the same as for other types of depression. Your doctor can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. However, many people with atypical depression need to see a psychiatrist. Most people also benefit from seeing a psychologist or other mental health counselor. Usually the most effective treatment is a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Home remedies:

  • Stick to your treatment plan. Don't skip psychotherapy sessions or appointments
  • Learn about depression. 
  • Pay attention to warning signs
  • Get exercise. 
  • Avoid alcohol and street drugs

Coping and support:

  • Simplify your life. Cut back on obligations when possible, and set reasonable goals for yourself.
  • Write in a journal
  • Don't become isolated. 
  • Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.
  • Learn ways to relax and manage your stress. Examples include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga and tai chi.
  • Structure your time. 
  • Don't make important decisions when you're down. 

There is no way to prevent depression, however taking steps to control stress and by talking to a therapist and reaching out to friends and family can help reduce your symptoms and to boost your self-esteem.

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