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, work, or loss of a friend or family member. When the situation changes, your mood will change to reflect how you feel, which is a normal and natural response. However, for some people this low mood can continue for a long time.  Maybe it stays low regardless of the situation or occasion, or starts to taint enjoyment of life and can even start to effect the things we can take for granted such as appetite, sleep, 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:

  • Experiencing low mood for a long period of time (more than 2 weeks)
  • Feeling very sad, tearful or numb and loss of interest and enjoyment
  • Changes in appetite e.g. loss of appetite or eating more than normal
  • Altered sleep pattern e.g. finding it very hard to fall or stay asleep and/or sleeping excessively
  • Lethargy and drained of energy for no obvious reason
  • Loss of interest in relationships, withdrawing from social occasions and lowered sex drive

When is low mood a problem?

This can vary between 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

What helps?

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) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) have strong evidence bases for its effectiveness for low mood and depression. In addition, the long term effects of therapy 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. 

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 therapy provides an opportunity to develop an in-depth understanding of your difficulties. From this, a therapy can be tailored specifically for you.