The Difference between Atypical Depression and Melancholic Depression
The DSM categorizes many different subtypes of depression under Major Depression Disorder. Very rarely will a psychologist or psychiatrist diagnose a patient as "depressed" without clarifying and characterizing the specific type of depression...
The major difference between these two types of depression lies in mood activity. A person suffering from atypical depression generally responds well to positive events around him/her. That is, he/she can experience a significant mood improvement if his/her surroundings are positive.
Someone with melancholic depression, however, can find no happiness, even when faced with joyous events. These people are said to have little or no mood reactivity. Pleasurable stimuli seem to have no effect on a melancholic sufferer's mood whatsoever.
Another difference is in sleep patterns. People with atypical depression tend towards hypersomnia (they sleep to much), as opposed to melancholic depressives who don't sleep enough due to insomnia.
Other differences divide atypical depression (which is usually chronic) and melancholic depression (acute) which is why treatments for the two types of depression also differ. Atypical depression improves with antidepressant treatment drugs such as MAOIs and SSRIs, while melancholic depression responds better to TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants).
For atypical depression, your doctor may suggest that you buy Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa, or Luvox. Or that you buy Paxil or buy Zoloft-these are the most popular SSRIs. For melancholic depression, you'll want to try TCAs that include Elavil, Sinequan, Tofranil, and Vivactil.
Psychotherapy is important for both.
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