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We have all felt low in mood at times. Often this is a very normal reaction to a set of difficult circumstances for example difficulties in a relationship, difficulties at work or loss of a friend or family member. When the situation changes, your mood changes to reflect how you feel in a normal and natural response to this change. However, for some people this low mood can continue for a long time, it stays low regardless of the situation or occasion, it starts to taint and prevent enjoyment in a range of contexts and can even start to effect the things we can take for granted such as appetite, sleep, being interested in the things that used to be of interest, general functioning and motivation.
Am I depressed?
There are a number of ways you can recognise the signs that you are struggling with low mood or depression:
- Feeling low in mood for a long period of time (more than 2 weeks), feeling very sad and tearful or feeling numb and cut off and loss of interest and enjoyment.
- Changes in appetite e.g. loss of appetite or eating more than normal.
- Changes in sleep pattern e.g. finding it very hard to fall or stay asleep and/or sleeping excessively.
- Feeling lethargic and drained of energy for no obvious reason.
- Loss of interest in relationships, withdrawing from social occasions, loss of interest in intimate relationships and lowered sex drive.
When is low mood a problem?
This can vary between people different people depending on their personality, their support network, their coping skills and the severity of the symptoms. What is not seen as a problem by one person may cause a number of difficulties for someone else. Symptom severity in itself does not necessarily indicate how much of a problem the low mood may be causing. What matters is whether it is a problem for you. However, there are a specific set of circumstances when help should be sought more urgently and these are outlined in the section below.
Research shows that there are a number of effective approaches to treating depression which are often based on talking therapy or on medication or a combination of the two. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has a strong evidence base for its effectiveness in alleviating the symptoms of low mood and depression and the long term effects of this treatment often far exceed those of medication. The NHS website (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Depression/Pages/Treatment.aspx) which is based on the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines, recommends talking therapy and other non-pharmacological means of treatment for mild to moderate symptoms of low mood and depression but suggests that medication may be considered for more severe symptoms.
However, everyone is an individual and although CBT can be extremely effective for low mood and depression, sometimes a different therapeutic approach or a therapy tailored to the individual and their needs is more appropriate. The assessment stage of any therapeutic intervention provides an opportunity to develop an indepth understanding of your difficulties on which a tailored individual therapy can be developed specifically for you.