The term "atypical" depression is often used to specify a collection of symptoms (specifiers) that may be present with major depression or dysthymia. Unlike melancholic depression, you may feel more tired than usual and have a voracious appetite. There are ways you can manage symptoms and possibly make atypical depression less impactful on your life.
Fight Weight Gain
Emotional eating is an especially difficult symptom that occurs with atypical depression. You may feel hungry more often than usual and even when you eat, you may feel like your stomach is never full. Unfortunately, the emotional eating can create a cyclic pattern of weight gain, increased depression symptoms, and more emotional eating. Additionally, you likely want sweet or other high-carbohydrate foods, which can increase sleepiness. Find good high-protein snacks to help minimize weight gain. If you are not a vegetarian, try meat-based snacks, such as jerky. Since these products often come in a range of flavors, you may find some that can help satisfy the craving for sweet or savory. Similarly, almonds and peanuts in various flavors may also be satisfying.
When you have family or employment commitments and battle with atypical depression, fighting against hypersomnia is not always beneficial. Whenever possible, maintain a consistent sleep schedule, but incorporate a few naps throughout the day. Even a few 20 minute naps may be enough to help you push through your day. Be cautious about your use of caffeine. Since hypersomnia and fatigue associated with atypical depression is not the same as typical sleepiness and exhaustion, caffeine may do little to help improve your symptoms. Additionally, if you experience symptoms of anxiety or irritability with your depression, these feelings can be easily exacerbated with caffeine use. Try to limit your caffeine to a cup or two of coffee or other caffeinated drinks per day.
Change Your Antidepressant
If you have been taking antidepressants, specifically reuptake inhibitors, and find you are not experiencing adequate relief of symptoms, you might benefit from a different class of medications. Many mental health professionals are somewhat hesitant to prescribe monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) because they require certain dietary restrictions to prevent serious side effects. Wine and cheese are among the types of foods that cannot be consumed while taking MAOIs. If you are currently receiving treatment for depression from a psychologist or a primary care physician, it may be time to speak with a psychiatrist who is more comfortable with a wider range of medications. MAOIs may work better to reduce the symptoms associated with atypical depression.
Consider Bipolar Screenings
Another advantage to speaking with a psychiatrist is additional mental health screenings that may reveal more about your condition. Bipolar disorder is often associated with atypical depression and it is not always easy to identify. For example, friends, family, or mental health professionals may easily recognize manic episodes as a problem; however, not everyone with bipolar disorder has "full blown" mania. Hypomania can look like a temporary resolution of depression symptoms or mixed mania may look more like irritability, anxiety, or simply a bad mood.
The frequency of "cycling" between depressive and manic episodes can also make a bipolar diagnosis more difficult to pinpoint. People who are rapid-cyclers, meaning they have shifts from depression to mania frequently in the course of a year, can be more obviously bipolar than people who may not cycle as often. If bipolar disorder is present, you may notice better improvement of atypical depression symptoms after being on the right medications.
Typically, people with bipolar disorder have worsening of symptoms or show no signs of improvement when they are on an antidepressant alone. Combining an antidepressant with an antipsychotic or mood stabilizer is frequently used to manage bipolar disorder. Even the use of antipsychotics alone or in combination with antidepressants may be effective for atypical depression, even if you do not have bipolar disorder.
Atypical depression can present unique challenges, such as increased appetite and sleepiness, compounding the problem. By finding the right medications and making lifestyle adjustments, you can gain better symptom resolution. You might also want to consider counseling at a treatment center like The Genen Group.