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, usually more than 10 hours a day
- Heavy, leaden 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
When to see a doctor
If you feel depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you can. Depression may get worse if it isn't treated. Untreated depression can lead to other mental and physical health problems or problems in other areas of your life. Feelings of depression can also lead to suicide.
If you're reluctant to seek treatment, talk to a friend or loved one, a health care professional, a faith leader, or someone else you trust.
If you have suicidal thoughts
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, get help right away. Here are some steps you can take:
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, a spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
- Make an appointment with your doctor, mental health provider or other health care provider.
When to get emergency help
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
If you have a loved one who is in danger of committing suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
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 (blood) 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.
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 (talk to your doctor before stopping any medication)
- Financial problems
Family history and issues with family or others may also increase your risk of depression:
- Biological (blood) relatives with a history of depression, bipolar disorder or alcoholism
- Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one
- Depression after giving birth (postpartum depression)
- Family members who committed suicide
- Few friends or other personal relationships
Like other types of depression, atypical depression is a serious illness that can cause major problems. Atypical depression can result in emotional, behavioral and health problems that affect every area of your life. Complications associated with atypical depression may include:
- Excess weight or obesity, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Anxiety and panic disorder or social phobia
- Family conflicts, relationship difficulties, and work or school problems
- Social isolation
- Suicidal feelings or suicide
There's no sure way to prevent depression. However, these strategies may help.
- Take steps to control stress, to increase your resilience and to boost your self-esteem.
- Reach out to family and friends, especially in times of crisis, to help you weather rough spells.
- Get treatment at the earliest sign of a problem to help prevent depression from worsening.
- Consider getting long-term maintenance treatment to help prevent a relapse of symptoms.