What is Atypical Depression?

There are several different kinds of depression that affect people for a variety of reasons. Atypical depression is one of the most common forms.

Atypical depression is a type of major depression where the individual experiences high and lows depending on what is going on around them. They can be experiencing a depression low yet their mood can be instantly improved by something positive happening around them.

Someone can experience a variety of symptoms for a variety of reasons. As is typical with mental health issues, the experience is tailored to the individual’s pre-existing experiences, lifestyle, genetics and more.

Causes of Atypical Depression

As with any mental health condition, the causes can vary by individual. While there is no one cause, there are several possible causes. The following examples are the most common causes known.

Substance Abuse

It is typical for someone who struggles with depression to have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol. This is often because they will use either of these to help them feel better and escape their feelings.

Afterward, feelings of depression and sadness are often increased because of the effects. Someone without depression who abuses drugs/alcohol is likely to develop depression over time in some situations.

The abuse of drugs/alcohol with depression is a hard cycle to break. Often those struggling with this feel as though their feelings of sadness are too hard to bear without using.

Going through rehabilitation and getting therapy from a professional can give them the help they need to break the cycle and work through their feelings to heal from depression.


As with many mental health disorders, much of it can relate to pre-existing characteristics that have been passed down generationally.

Personality issues such as extreme stress and anxiety have the ability to cause someone to develop depression over time.

Atypical depression is one of the most common forms of major depression. It is likely that if the tendencies are there, the cause for developing atypical depression are genetic factors from your parents.

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It is no secret that trauma and abuse can have serious lasting effects if not treated. Whether one experienced some kind of significant loss or was abused, the effects of a variety of negative experiences can last and develop further.

Developing mental disorders is common when victims of trauma or abuse do not get the help they need following a traumatic event or abuse.

When someone goes through a traumatic event, their brain will try to cope. Depending on how well the brain is able to do this or not could depend on whether or not depression can be developed.

Pre-existing issues in the brain such as chemical imbalances could sway the outcome as well.

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Having a healthy brain will benefit those who have suffered a traumatic event or abuse as they will be able to process the event(s) in a healthier way.

If one has healthy habits, is self-aware and doesn’t hide their feelings, they have a much better chance of coping and healing over time. Having healthy outlets is key as well.

When we hold fear, sadness, anger or stress in our bodies, the effects could be life-changing. 

Symptoms of Atypical Depression

Atypical gets its name as it is not the typical depression symptoms you might expect. Here are a few common symptoms to help you distinguish this common form of depression.

Sudden Improved Mood

The fact that someone struggling with atypical depression can experience an improved mood given a situation is one of the key factors that makes atypical depression “atypical” from other forms of depression.

An individual with atypical depression could be feeling a low of depression then have their mood lighten instantly. They could be made happy by an event such as an exciting event or seeing a family member or friend.

It might seem like someone with atypical depression is just sad a lot but the experience is much more extreme than that. While being sad is a normal part of being human, feeling sad the majority of the time shouldn’t be the case.

Feeling of Heaviness

It is common for someone with atypical depression to feel as though they are heavier than normal.

They may appear to “slump” around as their limbs feel especially heavy for seemingly no reason. Experiencing this physical manifestation of their depression might cause them to avoid exercising.

They may avoid moving around as usual and may spend more time than usual in bed or on the couch because of it.

Sleeping too much

A lot of the time when someone is depressed they will feel the need to sleep more. This is because of all the emotional stress they are under.

atypical depression

It’s mentally exhausting to live with depression at times. If someone is very empathetic they will spend a lot of their energy overthinking things, being emotional and perhaps even trying to work out their depression in tiring cycles in their head.

Lack of exercise during a depression period will also cause them to desire more sleep as exercise is energizing. The more you move your body, the more energy you have.

If you slip into a period of time where movement is minimal, you’ll feel the effects by losing energy and motivation.

Weight Gain

Overeating is a symptom of atypical depression as it is with other forms of depression. Weight fluctuations are common depending on how severe the cycles of depression are per individual case.

Between overeating and lack of exercise, weight can be substantial depending on the individual.

Facts and Statistics About Atypical Depression

Atypical depression is unique in many different ways. It is one of the most common forms of depression found among those suffering from general depression.

atypical depression

It is also twice as common among women than it is with men. Atypical depression is also unique as those suffering do not need to wait until adulthood to be diagnosed as is the case with other mental health disorders.

Teens and adolescents can experience significant symptoms of atypical depression.

Things You can do to Ease Depression

Along with a variety of treatment options, there are several daily things that can be done to reduce depression symptoms and increase your quality of life.

Healthy Lifestyle

It’s no secret that a healthy lifestyle has huge benefits on your mind and body. Treating your body well with a healthy diet and exercise can help significantly reduce the frequency and severity of depression symptoms.

If you also struggle with anxiety (as many with depression do), it will help with your anxiety as well!

Speaking of anxiety, if you or someone you love is struggling with anxiety and/or panic attacks, you know how debilitating those experiences might be.

An individualized program (like this one from Panic Away) can help you discover the cause behind your triggers and address your fear and anxiousness head on.

By doing this, you can pinpoint key events in the cycle of anxiety in order to break it.

Personal Development Activities

Having beneficial personal activities to encourage you is also a beneficial activity you can do. Journaling is a great way to express yourself and work through uncomfortable emotions.

Meditation has also been known to help ease depression symptoms.

Talk to a Professional Counselor

Talking to a professional counselor is a great treatment option.

Not only will they be able to help pinpoint areas of pain and fear, but they can help you break out of destructive things you might be doing that you aren’t aware of.

I hope this helped you understand atypical depression a bit better. If you or someone you love is struggling with any type of depression, taking the first step toward treatment might seem difficult.

Many people feel as though they’re burdening loved ones by talking about it. People also struggle with spending money on treatment for themselves as they do not believe they are worth it.

By being supportive and showing love and compassion, you can encourage someone to get the help they need while supporting them in the process.

The better we treat ourselves and others, the better our relationships and quality of life will be. Reach out to a struggling loved one today!

More from the Blog…

Resources and Helpful Articles

psycom.net – more on atypical depression


Hi, I'm Marissa! I'm passionate about mental and emotional health and want to share what I've learned over the years with others! I've seen first hand how mental health struggles can cause serious issues within relationships, work life, daily productivity, self-worth and more! I truly believe that we owe it to ourselves to bring more awareness to these life changing topics. Start your mental/emotional health journey by learning more today!

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