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Depression Health Center

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Atypical Depression

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What causes atypical depression?

Depression is believed to be the result of impaired functioning of brain circuits that regulate mood, and that allow one region of the brain to communicate with another. Nerve cells contained within these circuits transmit signals through brain chemicals called neurotransmitters -- such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Antidepressant medicines are thought to "tweak" these chemicals and thereby improve the efficiency of brain circuits related to mood.

While the exact cause of depression is unknown, there are risk factors for depression, including:

  • A family history of depression
  • A significant loss -- from death, divorce, or separation -- that may trigger an underlying vulnerability to depression (rather than simply normal grief)
  • Interpersonal conflicts and related emotions such as guilt
  • Any type of abuse -- physical, sexual, or emotional
  • Any type of major life event such as moving, changing or losing a job, graduating, retiring, or social isolation in people who have a biological vulnerability to depression
  • Any type of serious illness such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, or HIV
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

How is atypical depression treated?

Doctors are likely to recommend psychotherapy (talk therapy) and/or medications for atypical depression, depending on the severity of the symptoms. There are different types of psychotherapy and medications available for treatment. You may be referred to a specialist such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other licensed mental health professional for care.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on February 08, 2014
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