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Course and Treatment of Atypical Depression

Andrew A. Nierenberg, M.D.; Jonathan E. Alpert, M.D., Ph.D.; Joel Pava, Ph.D.; Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, M.D.; and Maurizio Fava, M.D.

Published: February 1, 1998

Article Abstract

Atypical depression is the most common form of depression in outpatients, but comparedwith melancholia, little is known about its comorbidity, course, and treatment. Beyond the wellcharacterizedconstellation of symptoms that define atypical depression (mood reactivity, hypersomnia,leaden paralysis, hyperphagia, and rejection sensitivity), specific Axis I and II comorbid conditionsmay differentiate atypical from other depressed patients. Similarly, age at onset, duration ofepisodes, frequency of relapses and recurrences, and frequency of complete remission in atypical depressionmay be different. It has not even been established if atypical depression is a stable subtype orif it is just one of several forms of depression that an individual may express during a lifetime of recurrentdepressions. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are superior to tricyclic antidepressants(TCAs) for the treatment of atypical depression, but few studies have compared MAOIs to the newergeneration of antidepressants (SSRIs, bupropion, venlafaxine, nefazodone, and mirtazapine). Becauseof the favorable benefit/risk ratio, clinicians tend to use these newer antidepressants for all outpatients,including those with atypical depression, even though the literature is limited. A review andcritique of the relevant literature on atypical depression will be presented.

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Volume: 59

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