Major Depression vs. Atypical Depression: What is the Difference Between Major Depression and Atypical Depression?

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Some people suffer from depression and they do not even know it. When it never occurs to someone that they are suffering from depression, this is where usually the problem starts and usually there is no coming back from depression that goes untreated. This is why it is important for people who are suffering from this condition to have themselves check by a psychologist. It is also important to determine what is the difference between major depression and atypical depression, as well as what kind of depression one is suffering from.


Major Depression is experienced more by people at the age of 25 years old and 44 years old while the onset of atypical depression is usually during the teenage years. In both cases, women are said to be more prone to developing these disorders than men.

Major Depression vs. Atypical Depression

If a person presents irritable and depressed mood which extends up to 2 weeks or more and if it comes with several possible symptoms like loneliness, hopelessness and sadness that actually interfere in how a person functions in everyday life, it is now considered to be a major depressive disorder or clinical depression. A person with atypical depression suffers from the same depressed feelings but with much less possible symptoms. It has a more focused group of symptoms that defines the type of depression one is having.


The main difference between these two types of depression is the number of possible symptoms that the patient could be suffering from. In major depression, the possibly symptoms to be observed include irritability, agitation, restlessness, anxiety, a sudden change in appetite, a sudden change in weight, difficulty in concentrating, fatigue, inactivity, excessive sleeping, thoughts of suicide and feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, self-hate and inappropriate guilt.

Atypical depression has a more focused set of possible symptoms that include excessive sleeping, excessive eating, extreme sensitivity to rejection and feelings of being weighed down or paralyzed. With any combination of these symptoms, it is usually easy to determine that the patient is suffering from atypical depression and not major clinical depression.

Another distinguishing characteristic in atypical depression is mood reactivity. Good news cannot convince a person with major depression to feel more positive, while a person suffering from atypical depression reactivates his positive mood temporarily with good news and events. So for people asking “what is the difference between major depression and atypical depression?”, it could be distinguished easily with mood reactivity.


Though there is no specific known cause for atypical and major depression, depression in general is still believed that it has something to do with brain chemicals specifically the neurotransmitters, childhood and life traumatic events and inherited traits.


For all types of depression, though, the first step in treatment is not usually medications. A proper psychological counseling is the best therapeutic needs in helping patients with this disorder. This psychotherapy or therapeutic communication is a tool for exploring the reasons behind the depressive behavior of patients suffering from depression. Followed by a well-planned implementation to gradually change the lifestyle before medication is prescribed.

In terms of therapeutic drugs, Major depression responds well to treatment using a medication called tricyclic antidepressants or TCAs. However, it does not do so well with newer medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs and monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAOIs. These newer medications work best with atypical depression.