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Original Research

Depression With Atypical Features: Diagnostic Validity, Prevalence, and Treatment

Frederic M. Quitkin, MD

Published: June 1, 2002

Article Abstract

Depression with atypical features is a treatable and relatively common disorder among depressed outpatients. A growing body of evidence suggests this is a biologically distinct subtype of depression. This assertion is supported by genetic epidemiologic studies and by a preferential response of the subtype to monoamine oxidase inhibitors compared with tricyclic antidepressants. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) includes atypical features as a parenthetical modifier for depressive illness. According to DSM-IV diagnostic criteria (“atypical features” specifier), the disorder is primarily characterized by 2 or more of the following symptoms as predominant features in patients with major depression or dysthymic disorder: overeating, oversleeping, “leaden paralysis,” and interpersonal rejection sensitivity. Patients also show mood reactivity in response to actual or potential positive events. Despite aspects of the disorder resembling a maladaptive, persistent mode of behavior, patients diagnosed with depression with atypical features demonstrate a good response to antidepressant treatment.

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