Atypical Depression: One of the Most Difficult Disorders to Diagnose

January 14, 2019
The problem with atypical depression is that the affected person isn’t aware of what's happening to them. Learn more about it in this article!

Atypical depression is a subcategory of major depression. It’s very difficult to diagnose because its symptoms can be similar to those of conditions like simple fatigue, stress, or even metabolic disorders.

However, something to remember when we talk about these types of emotional problems is that people aren’t always fully aware of what’s happening to them.

In addition, what’s happening may not be due to simple exhaustion or just a bad moment.

Your primary care physician is without a doubt the first person who should be aware of these symptoms. You need to remember that these symptoms may sometimes disguise themselves behind excessive weight gain or drowsiness.

In today’s article, we want to talk more about this problem and highlight the things that you should be aware of.

Atypical depression: When the body hurts because the soul is suffering

Most health professionals have a basic protocol for identifying depression: recurring negative thoughts, feelings of helplessness, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts.

From there, they can make a more accurate diagnosis to establish the type of depression the patient is suffering from. Then, they can determine the pharmacological and therapeutic treatment that should be followed.

However, atypical depression is not as clear-cut until a person exhibits suicidal thoughts. Naturally, this is a wakeup call that makes both the patient and their family ask for help.

Before this, however, the patient’s quality of life has suffered in many ways.

Discover: Diet for Depression: Foods that Cheer you Up

A woman suffering from atypical depression.

Physical symptoms

People with atypical depression often gain weight without knowing why. It’s not enough to just be more hungry or anxious than usual. The patient’s metabolism actually changes. Naturally, that makes it easier to accumulate fat.

Another common symptom is fatigue and physical pain, especially in the arms and legs. They can feel very heavy, so much so that at certain times of the day it can be difficult to move them.

This exhaustion makes you feel little or no desire to do everyday tasks. Eventually, you may exclude yourself from your normal social activities.


People with atypical depression can sleep for very long periods of time.

They may sleep for up to 10 hours in a row. This leaves them in a continuous state of fatigue and weakness. They may also feel detached from reality.


This mood disorder makes you cranky, irritable, and unable to feel positive emotions.

You may view good news, relaxing times, laughter, and festivities from a distance. They may feel annoying or even incomprehensible.

As if that weren’t enough, patients can have catastrophic thoughts. They may believe that anything they start will always end badly so it’s not worth acting or reacting because they don’t have control over anything.

This article may interest you: 4 Tips to Overcome Sadness

A depressed man.

Times of great anxiety

Elevated anxiety is also linked to this type of depression.

Oddly enough, a person with atypical depression is very aware of how defenseless they are, and they feel bad about it. This causes a self-rejection that leads to even more anxiety.

It’s common to go through periods of calm and fatigue, as well as months of stress, nervousness, and anxiety.

Naturally, it can have a serious impact on their work and social lives.

What triggers atypical depression?

Atypical depression affects men as well as women.

As is always the case with this type of illness, there are those who ask for help and those who are better able to manage it or experience emotional relief.

On the other hand, there is no single or exclusive cause for atypical depression. It’s a multifaceted reality.

Let’s examine the possible triggers in detail.

Possible causes

It often has a genetic cause. If your parents suffered from this disease, you’re more likely to suffer from it as well if you face a difficult situation. This can be a loss, a breakup, a traumatic event, etc.

Experts explain that it usually develops as a combination of two factors: an accident or trauma and the genetic predisposition for depression.

Other times, it can be the result of too much of too many things. Family problems, unhappiness with your life, daily stress, and the difficulty learning to manage your own emotions can trigger this condition.

A woman staring at the sunset.


Atypical depression usually appears and disappears over the course of two years.

There is a multidimensional approach to treating this disease. This includes drugs, psychological therapy, social support, and lifestyle changes.

However, it’s a sub-category of major depression. This means the afflicted person is facing a challenge that requires close family and friends, vigilance, patience, and empathy.

  • Parker, G., Roy, K., Mitchell, P., Wilhelm, K., Malhi, G., & Hadzi-Pavlovic, D. (2002). Atypical depression: A reappraisal. American Journal of Psychiatry.
  • Singh, T., & Williams, K. (2006). Atypical depression. Psychiatry.
  • Yoon, H. K., Kim, Y. K., Lee, H. J., Kwon, D. Y., & Kim, L. (2012). Role of cytokines in atypical depression. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry.
  • Thase, M. E. (2009). Atypical depression: Useful concept, but it’s time to revise the dsm-iv criteria. Neuropsychopharmacology.