People with atypical depression can protect their long-term physical health by getting treatment for their mental health symptoms.
Increased systemic inflammation is seen in people with atypical depression, putting them at greater risk of developing heart disease.
The good news is that – according to research – those who receive treatment for atypical symptoms cut their risk of stroke and heart attack nearly in half.
What Atypical Depression Is
Atypical depression is a sub-type of either major depressive disorder (MDD) or persistent depressive disorder (PDD).
The distinguishing feature of atypical depression is situational mood improvement, where a person’s mood lifts in reaction to an event such as going out with a friend, or getting a raise at work.
In addition to the symptoms required for MDD or PDD, and situation mood improvement, an atypical diagnosis must meet two or more or the following five conditions:
- Being oversensitive to interpersonal rejection or perceived criticism.
- A feeling of physical heaviness.
- An increased appetite.
- Weight gain.
- Sleeping excessively.
Of those with depression, an estimated 15 to 40 percent have the atypical variety; the percentage is higher for women than men.
Atypical Health Factors
Research has recently made three health-related discoveries about those with atypical depression:
- As a group they have greater levels of inflammatory immune system substances called cytokine interleukin-6 than those with non-atypical depression.
- They are twice as likely to have more C-reactive protein (CRP) in their bloodstream than people with non-atypical depression, or no depression. CRP, produced by the liver, is a marker for inflammation. High levels are predictive of coronary artery disease.
- They tend to have lower quality diets than people with other types of depression, or no depression; seeing a nutritionist might be a wise intervention on an atypical depression treatment plan.
There has been buzz in the science media the past few years about the role of inflammation in depression. This might be owed to the distinct physiology of those with the atypical sub-type.
Whether the inflammation precedes atypical depressive symptoms, or the depression comes before the inflammation (both may prove true), early treatment will help individuals feel better now, and protect their future physical well being.