Chocolate craving efficient discriminator for atypical depression


Chocolate reduces irritability and rejection sensitivity in patients with atypical depression. The question about chocolate craving succesfully allocates two third of particpants with three or four symptoms of atypical depression.

How?
3000 participants reporting clinical depression completed a web-based questionnaire when visiting a website (http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au). Respondents were required to have experienced depressive episodes lasting at least 2 weeks and requiring treatment. The questionnaire was used to investigate self-reported benefits of chocolate during a depressive episode and examine for any specificity of personality style to such chocolate craving.

More results

When depressed 1465 (54,4%) reported food cravings, with 1210 (44,9) specifically being chocolate cravers (50,7% of the women, 30,9% of men).
Of the chocolate craver group, the 736 (60,8%) who rated chocolate’s capacity to improve their depressed mood as moderately to very important were more likely to rate it as making them feel significantly less anxious and less irritated.


What is atypical depression?

Criteria for atypical depression (DSM IV):

A. Mood reactivity (i.e., mood brightens in response to actual or potential positive events)

B. At least two of the following:

1. Significant weight gain or increase in appetite
2. Hypersomnia (sleeping too much, as opposed to the insomnia present in melancholic depression)
3. Leaden paralysis (i.e., heavy, leaden feelings in arms or legs)
4. long-standing pattern of interpersonal rejection sensitivity (not limited to episodes of mood disturbance) that results in significant social or occupational impairment

C. Criteria are not met for Melancholic Depression or Catatonic Depression during the same episode.

In general, atypical depression tends to cause greater functional impairment than other forms of depression. Atypical depression is a chronic syndrome that tends to begin earlier in life than other forms of depression — usually beginning in teenage years.
Atypical depression is more common in females — nearly 70% of the atypical population are women

Good to know
The author Gordon Parker is an excellent researcher from Australia. In his work he states that mood reactivity as the main criteria for atypical depression should be abandoned. He pleads for another feature as the main criterion: personality style with emotional dysregulation.

Article discussed:
Gordon Parker Joanna Crwford
Chocolate craving when depressed: a personality marker
British Journal of Psychiatry (2007) 191: 351-352