Atypical depression, despite its name, is not unusual and occurs in 25 to 40 percent of depressed patients seen by doctors. However, it differs from typical depression in certain key respects. For example, sufferers do manage to find pleasure in certain activities at certain times, and, rather than having insomnia and loss of appetite, many people with atypical depression overeat and oversleep.

Other symptoms include:

  • a general sadness that can be interrupted by enjoyment of pleasurable experiences or circumstances
  • strong feelings of rejection
  • a sensation of heaviness, especially in the arms
  • a strong preference to overeat carbohydrate-rich foods because ingestion of carbohydrates causes an increase in serotonin in the brain, which can boost mood.

The disorder is just as debilitating as the more traditional forms of major depression despite the apparent lack of sadness. People with atypical depression often have shorter —but more frequent —episodes of depression.

Publication Review By: Karen L. Swartz, M.D.

Published: 01 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 02 Dec 2014