Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy) are effective for most people with depression, including atypical depression. Your primary care doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. However, many people with atypical depression benefit from also seeing a psychologist or other mental health professional.

If you have severe depression, you may need a hospital stay or you may need to participate in an outpatient treatment program until your symptoms improve.

Here's a closer look at your treatment options.


Discuss possible benefits, risks and side effects of medications with your doctor and pharmacist. Types of medications can include:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). MAOIs are the oldest class of antidepressant medications, but they can have serious side effects. However, some experts feel that MAOIs, especially phenelzine (Nardil), can be effective for atypical depression. They also may help with anxiety, panic and other specific symptoms. Using MAOIs requires a strict diet because of dangerous (or even deadly) interactions with certain foods and some medications, such as birth control pills, decongestants and certain herbal supplements. MAOIs can't be combined with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • Other antidepressants. SSRIs, most notably sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac, Selfemra), can be an effective alternative to MAOIs. Tricyclic antidepressants are not as effective, but may be an option for treating atypical depression, particularly in people with a later onset of illness and a less chronic course. Other antidepressants may be beneficial, but have not been systematically studied for atypical depression.

You may need to try several medications or a combination of medications before you find one that works. This requires patience, as some medications need several weeks or longer to take full effect and for side effects to ease as your body adjusts.


Psychotherapy is a general term for treating depression by talking about your condition and related issues with a mental health provider. Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy.

Through these talk sessions, you can:

  • Learn how to identify and change unhealthy behavior or thoughts
  • Explore relationships and experiences
  • Find better ways to cope and solve problems
  • Set realistic goals for your life
  • Regain a sense of satisfaction and control in your life
  • Help ease depression symptoms such as hopelessness and anger

As part of your treatment, it's important to also address other conditions that often accompany atypical depression, in particular anxiety and drug or alcohol use, as they can make your depression more difficult to treat.

Sept. 17, 2015