Stress, anxiety and depression

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Low mood and depression

Moodzone: Low mood and depression

Media last reviewed: 14/02/2013

Next review due: 14/02/2015

Life's ups and downs: reasons we're not cheerful

Most people experience ups and downs in their life, and can feel unhappy, depressed, stressed or anxious during difficult times. This is a normal part of life.

Many difficult events and experiences can leave us in low spirits or cause depression: relationship problems, bereavement, sleep problems, stress at work, bullying, illness, and pain being just a few.

Changes to hormones, such as during puberty, after childbirth and during the menopause, can also have an effect on your emotional and mental health.

But sometimes it's possible to feel down without there being an obvious reason.

What is the difference between low mood and depression?

A general low mood can include:

  • sadness
  • an anxious feeling
  • worry
  • tiredness
  • low self-esteem
  • frustration
  • anger

However, a low mood will tend to improve after a short time. Making some small changes in your life, such as resolving a difficult situation or talking about your problems and getting more sleep, can improve your mood. 

A low mood that doesn't go away can be a sign of depression. Symptoms of depression can include the following:

  • continuous low mood or sadness
  • feeling hopeless and helpless
  • having low self-esteem 
  • feeling tearful
  • feeling guilt-ridden
  • feeling irritable and intolerant of others 
  • having no motivation or interest in things
  • finding it difficult to make decisions
  • not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
  • feeling anxious or worried

Read more about the symptoms of depression, including the physical and social effects.

Depression can also come on at specific points in your life, such as the winter months (SAD) and after the birth of a child (postnatal depression).

Getting help

Whatever the cause, if negative feelings don't go away, are too much for you to cope with, or are stopping you from carrying on with your normal life, you may need to make some changes and get some extra support.

"We all know what it feels like to be down," says Professor David Richards, professor of mental health services research at the University of Exeter. "Most people who feel low will start to feel better after a few days or weeks. But if these feelings persist or get in the way of everyday life, it's time to seek help."

If you're still feeling down or anxious after a couple of weeks, talk to your GP or call NHS 111. A GP will be able to discuss your symptoms with you and make a diagnosis.

Seek help immediately

If you start to feel like your life isn't worth living, get help straight away. Either see your GP or call NHS 111. You can also contact helplines such as Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 for confidential, non-judgemental emotional support. 

If you've had depression or anxiety in the past, even if they weren't formally diagnosed, get help immediately. You're more likely to have an episode of depression if you've had one before.

What type of help is available?

Self-help

Whether you have depression or just find yourself feeling down for a while, it could be worth trying some self-help techniques. However, if your GP has diagnosed depression, it is important that you also continue with your prescribed treatment.

Life changes, such as getting a regular good night's sleep, keeping to a healthy diet, reducing your alcohol intake and getting regular exercise, can be effective in helping you feel healthier and more relaxed. This can often help people feel more in control and more able to cope.

Self-help techniques can include activities such as meditation, breathing exercises and learning ways to think about problems differently. Tools such as self-help books and online counselling can be very effective.

Read more about self-help therapies.

If you are diagnosed with depression, your GP will discuss all of the available treatment options with you, including antidepressants and talking therapies.

Talking therapies

There are many types of talking therapies available. Different types of talking therapies suit certain problems, conditions and people better than others. To help you decide which one would be most suitable for you, talk to your GP about the types of talking therapy on offer, and let them know if you prefer a particular one.

Read more about the types of talking therapy available.

IAPT

The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme has been introduced to help people in England access the therapies used to treat depression and anxiety. More and more local health authorities are introducing the option of self-referral. This means that people who prefer not to talk to their GP can go directly to a professional therapist. To find out what's available in your area, see our counselling and psychological therapies directory

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are a type of medication commonly used to treat depression and other conditions. There are several types available, including SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants) and MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors). If your GP prescribes you antidepressants, they will explain the type they have chosen and why it suits you.

Read more about antidepressants.


Page last reviewed: 04/01/2014

Next review due: 04/01/2016

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The 10 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Pickleberry0102 said on 04 March 2014

I went to see my GP when I was having anxiety attacks at random times. I told her that I had just qualified as a social worker and she proceeded to tell me that social work is a stressful job and that maybe I should think about whether its right for me. I came out distraught, crying and wondering if after 4 years of my life, spent studying and looking forward to my career, that would be it. So I can understand how difficult it can sometimes be to talk to your GP but I just wanted to say that sometimes there can be no rhyme or reason why we feel this way and things can seem perfect for us from an outsiders perspective, but that doesn't mean that we don't feel this way or we should feel bad because we 'should' be happy. We can't always help the way we feel but there are people out there who will understand and can help you to get your life back on track. If you don't feel you can talk to your GP or can't get appointments don't worry, you can contact the mental health teams directly and they have social workers who can work with you to better understand how you have got to this point and the small steps you can take to make things better. They also have other professionals that can help with other forms of treatment to go along with this. Having someone to talk to that isn't going to judge you can make a massive difference even if it's just to get things off your chest. No one should be made to feel that their problems aren't real or that they are daft or stupid for feeling that way so if they do, don't be afraid to report it because it's their job to have a non-judgemental approach so any stray away from this is just unprofessional. Take care and remember you really and truly 100% are not alone :)

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LAThoughts said on 03 March 2014

Hi everyone.
A little while ago I was where you guys are. And to be honest I couldn't see a way out. I was told about a guy who did NLP and Used TLT, and numerous other techniques to help get rid of depression. I had been holding on to it for far too long and it was seriously affecting my health. I wanted it gone and I got him to help me. Now my life has completely transformed. I am the happiest I have ever been.

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Samster74 said on 28 February 2014

To Seecle and many of the others in despair, I know how you feel and have been diagnosed with depression myself since late 2009. I have some good days where I actually forget about the label and other days that are just completely chronic. The family apart from my Mum were the worst at trying to understand at first what was wrong with me as I was the happy go lucky, bubbly, vivacious baby/child that nothing bothered her. My Mum understood me in so many ways it was probably quite scary but she was diagnosed with the same condition in 2003 after physical health problems got outwith her control and then a couple of family bereavements took their final toll. Her GP was a complete joke and she should have been struck off as Mum was told that she should retrain her brain into thinking her physical problems were in her imagination! So was left to struggle on with my help. My GP now has been better but my Mum finally lost her battle with this on 05/02/14 as no-one truly knows or appreciates what goes on in someone else's brain. You really only get help from talking about it but there is still such a stigma about mental health that those that have not gone through it don't want to know how you are really feeling. But try and not shut yourself away from life altogether as it does help to get out there and try and trust some people to help. The important thing for me is that I can't save the world even though it would be good but we all must stick together and try and not give up and take each day as it comes. People will always try and dismiss things they don't want to understand but if you are suffering, you just have to try and block their ignorance out and take it on the chin that it's not personal.

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angekim said on 07 February 2014

to all those people who i have just read your comments on depression i have suffered for five years now as diagnosed since my son was born asleep but i had an anxiety disorder since i was about 15 my husband and kids understand a bit but i would like to say there is light at the end of tunnel i wouldn't say im great every day but there are more and more days that are good than bad i am on medication and have had a few types of counseling and it has helped it has took a while but i am getting there grab all the hope you can it works and for those who have a family that try to understand and those that don't worry about explaining yourself there are more people who feel the same on the inside than you realize

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steviebb26 said on 12 January 2014

To Seecle 28 Oct13

I know how you feel. I don't know the answers but I am going to try and find out.

I hope you have more success and find your way back on your path.

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Seecle said on 28 October 2013

I spoke to my GP a few months ago when I was feeling really low. It had been going on for a while, a few months at least, before I got the courage to go and speak to someone.

I'd been told several years before by a different GP that there was no such thing as depression so I wasn't sure I was going to the right place. I felt a bit of a fraud, actually.

I told them I was feeling anxious/ sad most of the time, not sleeping well, losing interest in things I used to enjoy, thinking about quitting my job, suicidal thoughts etc. They agreed I appeared anxious.

They offered to put me on medication immediately, which I was sceptical about. A friend of mine killed himself while on anti-depressant medication so I wasn't convinced of its benefits. I told them I thought a course of therapy would be more suitable.

After that, they weren't interested. They asked a few details about me. I told them what I did for a living, had a girlfriend etc and they said how could I possibly be depressed? I was a nice middle class boy with a nice middle class job and a nice middle class girlfriend. What could possibly be so wrong that i was feeling so bad about life? It was really dismissive and humiliating, to be honest, and seriously unhelpful. I walked out.

In the six months since, I've quit that job, lost that girlfriend, lost touch with everyone I had in my life with the exception of my dad who is helping me with my mortgage. I'm no nearer to understanding why I feel so negatively about myself and so lacking in motivation for life. To be like this at the age of 42, I am ashamed of myself.

I am extremely reluctant to see this GP again, or see any GP for that matter. I don't think they take it seriously with their pull yourself together, lad, look on the bright side attitude. But I don't know what else to do.

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dormant374 said on 25 October 2013

Hi - Just a quick note about Samaritans:

As wesb said, you can make a reverse charge call to Sams and it will be accepted. If you ask them to phone you back they will do this as well. It's a shame they can't offer free calls, but they don't receive any funding other than what they raise themselves, and they answer tens of thousands of calls a day. They know that a lot of people can't afford to ring for long, which is why they'll always ring back if you ask them (although you'll have to give them your number first as they can't use 1471or see your number on their system - part of their commitment to absolute confidentiality).

You can also get in touch by email - jo@samaritans.org - they'll reply within 12 hours - not as quick as phoning, but sometimes it's easier to get your thoughts down in writing and you can get an in-depth reply. It's also free if you have internet access.

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mollytom said on 31 August 2013

I hope by now Eltharia has found a way to see her GP.

To anyone else experiencing the same same difficulties,
I recommend you ask to speak to the Practice Manager, explaining the difficulties you have in obtaining / attending an appointment.
Also, if you are able to post a letter or have someone that can post it for you, try writing directly to your GP. This will also give you the opportunity to spell out your situation, perhaps in a clearer way than you might in person.

Best of luck

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wesb said on 16 September 2012

I used to work as a BT operator, if you call 100 and ask for the samaritans they will connect you for free. Every reverse charge call I was asked make to the samartians was accepted by the person answering the call.

They might even call you back, if you ask? There really should be a non 0845 number!

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Eltharia said on 10 September 2012

This guys says that people with depression should have 5 people that they can call when it gets too much. Erm I have depression and all my friends have dumped me because I can't get it sorted out. I don't have 1 person I can call, let alone 5. I cant even afford to call the samaritans because the call is not free. I cannot get an appointment with my GP because all the appointments are usually gone by 8:45 in the morning. I cant get up that early, because of depression. What world is this guy living in? It's certinly not the one that I'm in.

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