Disease: Atypical depression

Any type of depression can make you feel sad and keep you from enjoying life. However, if you have atypical depression, certain key signs and symptoms tend to occur. These include increased hunger, weight gain, sleeping a lot, feeling that your arms and legs are heavy, and difficulty maintaining relationships.

Atypical depression often starts in the teenage years and is more common in women than in men. Despite the name, atypical depression isn't uncommon or unusual. Similar to other forms of depression, treatment for atypical depression includes medications, psychological counseling (psychotherapy) and lifestyle changes.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

These exams and tests can help rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms, pinpoint a diagnosis and check for any related complications:

  • Physical exam. Your doctor may do a physical exam and ask in-depth questions about your health to help determine what may be causing your depression. In some cases, depression may be linked to an underlying physical health problem.
  • Lab tests. For example, your doctor may do a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC) or test your thyroid to make sure it's functioning properly.
  • Psychological evaluation. To check for signs of depression, your doctor or mental health provider will talk to you about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns. Your doctor may have you fill out a written questionnaire to help answer these questions.

Diagnostic criteria for atypical depression

To be diagnosed with atypical depression, you must meet the symptom criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

For a diagnosis of atypical depression, you must first meet the general DSM criteria for major depression — such as feeling down most of the day and losing interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed. You'll also need to meet other specific criteria for atypical depression.

For a diagnosis of atypical depression you must have this symptom:

  • Depression that temporarily lifts when you're cheered up by positive events

In addition, you must have at least two of these symptoms for diagnosis:

  • Gaining weight or having a noticeable increase in appetite
  • Sleeping too much
  • Being sensitive to rejection by others so that it affects your work or relationships
  • Having a heavy feeling in your arms and legs

Atypical depression has a specific definition as a diagnosable condition. But some doctors and mental health providers use the term more loosely. Ask for a definition if it isn't clear what your doctor or mental health provider means when he or she says "atypical depression."

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Make sure you understand the risks as well as possible benefits if you pursue alternative or complementary therapy. Don't replace conventional medical treatment or psychotherapy with alternative medicine. When it comes to depression, alternative treatments aren't a substitute for professional care.

Herbal remedies and supplements

Examples of herbal remedies and supplements that are sometimes used for depression include:

  • St. John's wort. This herb is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat depression in the United States, but it's a popular depression treatment in Europe. It may be helpful if you have mild or moderate depression, but St. John's wort should be used with caution. It can interfere with a number of medications, including antidepressants, HIV/AIDS medications, drugs to prevent organ rejection after an organ transplant, birth control pills, blood-thinning medications and chemotherapy drugs.
  • SAMe. Pronounced "sam-EE," this dietary supplement is a synthetic form of a chemical that occurs naturally in the body. The name is short for S-adenosylmethionine (uh-den-o-sul-muh-THIE-o-neen). Like St. John's wort, SAMe isn't approved by the FDA to treat depression in the United States, but it's used in Europe as a prescription drug to treat depression. SAMe may be helpful, but more research is needed. In higher doses, SAMe can cause nausea and constipation.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats are found in cold-water fish, flaxseed, flax oil, walnuts and some other foods. Omega-3 supplements are being studied as a possible treatment for depression. While considered generally safe, the supplement can have a fishy taste, and in high doses, it may interact with other medications. More research is needed to determine if eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids can help relieve depression.

Because some herbal and dietary supplements can interfere with prescription medications or cause dangerous interactions, talk with your health care provider before taking any supplements.

Mind-body connections

Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners believe the mind and body must be in harmony for you to stay healthy. Examples of mind-body techniques that may be helpful for depression include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga or tai chi
  • Meditation
  • Guided imagery
  • Massage therapy
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Music or art therapy
  • Spirituality

Relying solely on these therapies is generally not enough to treat depression. They may be helpful when used in addition to medication and psychotherapy.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Depression generally isn't an illness that you can treat on your own. But in addition to professional treatment, these self-care steps can help:

  • Stick to your treatment plan. Don't skip psychotherapy sessions or appointments. Even if you're feeling well, don't skip your medications. If you stop, depression symptoms may come back, and you could also experience withdrawal-like symptoms.
  • Learn about depression. Education about your condition can empower you and motivate you to stick to your treatment plan. Encourage your family to learn about depression to help them understand and be more supportive of you.
  • Pay attention to warning signs. Work with your doctor or therapist to learn what might trigger your depression symptoms. Make a plan so you know what to do if your symptoms get worse. Contact your doctor or therapist if you notice any changes in symptoms or how you feel. Ask family members or friends to help watch for warning signs.
  • Get exercise. Physical activity reduces depression symptoms. Consider walking, jogging, swimming, gardening or taking up another activity you enjoy.
  • Avoid alcohol and street drugs. It may seem like alcohol or drugs lessen depression symptoms, but in the long run they generally worsen symptoms and make depression harder to treat. Talk with your doctor or therapist if you need help with alcohol or drug abuse.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Talk with your doctor or therapist about improving your coping skills, and try these tips:

  • Simplify your life. Cut back on obligations when possible, and set reasonable goals for yourself. Give yourself permission to do less when you feel down.
  • Write in a journal. Journaling, as part of your treatment, may improve your mood by allowing you to express pain, anger, fear or other emotions.
  • Read reputable self-help books. Your doctor or therapist may be able to recommend helpful books.
  • Locate helpful organizations. Many organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), offer education, support groups, counseling and other resources to help with depression. Employee assistance programs and religious organizations may also offer help for mental health concerns.
  • Don't become isolated. Try to participate in social activities, and get together with family or friends regularly.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.
  • Learn ways to relax and manage your stress. Examples include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga and tai chi.
  • Structure your time. Plan your day. You may find it helps to make a list of daily tasks, use sticky notes as reminders or use a planner to stay organized.
  • Don't make important decisions when you're down. Avoid decision making when you're feeling depressed, since you may not be thinking clearly.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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