What is Atypical Depression? 


+ March 23, 2017

The word “depression” conjures different emotions for everyone, but the default connotation is one of melancholy. A cloud of darkness that envelopes completely, transforming its owner into an impenetrable object.

Which is why for the longest time I felt like I couldn’t be depressed. Sure, I had episodes of low mood, but a catchup with a friend could brighten my day. I could feel an array of emotions including happiness.

So it was a bit of a surprise to me when I was diagnosed with something called “atypical depression” alongside a generalized anxiety disorder a couple of years ago.

Atypical depression does share some common symptoms with the more common melancholic depression. But it is differentiated by an improvement in mood in response to positive events.

While my friends who have suffered from melancholic depression experienced loss of appetite and insomnia, I had the opposite. Indeed, I spent much of my life as a morning person, needing only a few hours of sleep per night. However with Atypical depression came hypersomnia and now when things are particularly tough I can literally sleep my life away.

Atypical depression is 2-3 more times common in women and tends to be chronic with shorter periods between relapses. It’s often paired alongside anxiety disorders. And from what I can tell, I’ve been dealing with it since my teen years, but only had it identified at age 26!

Yet I remember the mental health professional at my assessment saying my case was “textbook.”

That’s why I’ve taken the time to type out this little post today. If you’re like me, you might be looking for answers in the wrong places.

If you have periods of low mood that can improve in positive situations, combined with at least 2 of the following symptoms, you may have atypical depression:

  • Sleeping too much
  • Eating too much
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection in social situations
  • Feeling physically weighted down or paralyzed

Of course, I’m not here to be your doctor, but many doctors believe atypical depression to be under-diagnosed.

Further reading on atypical depression can be found here:

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Links marked with an asterisk are collaborative or affiliated, but have been chosen carefully. You can find out more here!

  • I’d not heard of atypical depression before, so I love posts like this that highlight other illnesses. I suffered with depression for years but haven’t had an episode for a while now xx
    Holly ∣ Closingwinter

    • Yeah, it’s weird I guess because depression is maybe the most commonly talked about mental illness, but atypical depression is so unknown! I will probably go more into detail about what it’s like to actually live with it, but I just wanted to post this as a little introduction since I knew it would be new for a lot of people. 🙂

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  • Hanna

    That’s what I have/had. I’d say still have but not in the same level as about 5 years ago. I’m glad that my mother took me to doctor and that doctor took the situation seriously because I was not in good place. Thank you for writing about this. 🙂

  • zen_taco

    Sorry to hear you have this, but it’s good to know what’s going on. 🙁 I’ve been told that I don’t have depression, yet I hardly enjoy anything I used to love and feel like a garbage person. So I can relate to some of these signs. I’m being treated for Anxiety and ADHD for now.. it’s still tough. I hope that your diagnosis has brought some relief!