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Stress, anxiety and depression

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Low mood and depression

Difficult events and experiences can leave us in low spirits or cause depression.

It could be relationship problems, bereavement, sleep problems, stress at work, bullying, chronic illness or pain.

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

What's the difference between low mood and depression?

A general low mood can include:

However, a low mood will tend to lift after a few days or weeks.

Making some small changes in your life, such as resolving a difficult situation, talking about your problems or getting more sleep, can usually improve your mood.

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

  • low mood lasting two weeks or more
  • not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • feeling hopeless
  • feeling tired or lacking energy
  • not being able to concentrate on everyday things like reading the paper or watching television
  • comfort eating or losing your appetite
  • sleeping more than usual or being unable to sleep
  • having suicidal thoughts or thoughts about harming yourself

Read more about the symptoms of depression.

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

When to get help for low mood or depression

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.

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

What types of help are available?

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

Self-help

Whether you have depression or just find yourself feeling down for a while, it could be worth trying some self-help techniques.

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 help you 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.

If your GP has prescribed antidepressants, it's important that you carry on taking them.

Read more about self-help therapies.

Talking therapies

There are lots of different types of talking therapies available. To help you decide which one would most suit you, talk to your GP or read about the different types of talking therapies.

In some areas, you can refer yourself directly to your local psychological therapies service

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are commonly used to treat depression. There are several types available.

If your GP prescribes you antidepressants, they will discuss the different types and which one would suit you best.

Learn more about antidepressants.

When to seek help immediately

If you start to feel like your life isn't worth living, or that you want to harm yourself, get help straight away.

Either see your GP or call NHS 111. You can also call Samaritans on 116 123 for 24-hour confidential, non-judgemental emotional support.

See some other organisations that can help with mental health issues.

Moodzone: Low mood and depression

Dr Chris Williams explains what you can do to help yourself cope with low mood and depression. This podcast is one of an eight-part series for Moodzone.

Media last reviewed: 02/03/2015

Next review due: 02/03/2017

Page last reviewed: 04/01/2016

Next review due: 04/01/2018

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