What makes a depression disorder atypical? When the patient experiences all the symptoms of a specific depression disorder (e.g., bipolar disorder, dysthymia, major depression, etc.) but also exhibits one symptom or multiple symptoms that are not typical of that disorder.
For example, according to a study published in the journal Psychiatry, the following are signs of atypical depression:
- Periodically improved mood based on positive experiences
- No experience of catatonia or melancholia
- Two or more of the following symptoms for a duration of more than two weeks:
- Sleeping more
- Eating more
- Leaden feeling or heaviness in one or more limbs
- Feeling overly sensitive to the possibility of rejection by others that leads to significant impairment of ability to communicate or interact with others in any context
Unfortunately, an exacerbating issue for many patients is the use of alcohol and drugs. In an attempt to make themselves feel better, many drink or use other substances, not realizing that drugs and alcohol actually can worsen symptoms or extend the length of a depressive episode. Additionally, dependence upon the drug of choice can become problematic, making it necessary for patients to now find treatment not just for depression but for addiction as well.
Medications for Atypical Depression
There is much debate as to the best way to address the symptoms of atypical depression in patients, and the fact is that the answer is likely different for everyone. Depending upon the other depression symptoms or mood disorder issues, the use of antidepressants may or may not be indicated, and when they are, it is often debated whether cyclical antidepressants, MAOIs, or SSRIs are more or less appropriate.
The fact is that the potential for casual misdiagnosis is high, according to a study published in the journal World Psychiatry, and it is not uncommon for patients to be given medications that could potentially cause them to experience even more problems. This has the potential to worsen any issues of substance abuse and make it far more difficult for patients to heal.
Intensive Treatment Is Necessary
Despite the issues that can be an obstacle to recovery when patients seek treatment at many treatment programs, the fact is that effective treatment for atypical depression is possible even when it co-occurs with substance abuse and addiction.
Effective Dual Diagnosis treatment is the gold standard in recovery when two or more mental health and/or medical disorders exist. Intensive treatment for both disorders at the same time kicked off by an intensive evaluation period for the purposes of accurate diagnosis can not only increase the level of treatment provided but also improve the chances of effective and long-term recovery.
Here’s what you should look for when seeking out a Dual Diagnosis rehab program for your loved one:
- Thorough evaluation and diagnosis
- Personalized care designed to meet the needs of your loved one
- Inclusion of family members as needed
- The ability to update the treatment plan as progress is made
- Wide range of therapeutic offerings to address the symptoms and issues raised by all disorders, including depression and addiction
- Holistic care options
- Aftercare support
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.