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Low mood, sadness and depression

Most people feel low sometimes, but if it's affecting your life, there are things you can try that may help.

Support is also available if you're finding it hard to cope with low mood, sadness or depression.

Symptoms of a low mood

Symptoms of a general low mood may include feeling:

  • sad
  • anxious or panicky
  • more tired than usual or being unable to sleep
  • angry or frustrated
  • low on confidence or self-esteem

A low mood often gets better after a few days or weeks.

It's usually possible to improve a low mood by making small changes in your life. For example, resolving something that's bothering you or getting more sleep.

Symptoms of depression

If you have a low mood that lasts 2 weeks or more, it could be a sign of depression.

Other symptoms of depression may include:

  • not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • feeling hopeless
  • not being able to concentrate on everyday things
  • having suicidal thoughts or thoughts about harming yourself
Information:

If you're not sure how you feel, try our mood self-assessment.

Things you can try to help with a low mood

Do

Don't

  • do not try to do everything at once; set small targets that you can easily achieve
  • do not focus on the things you cannot change – focus your time and energy into helping yourself feel better
  • try not to tell yourself that you're alone – most people feel low sometimes and support is available
  • try not to use alcohol, cigarettes, gambling or drugs to relieve a low mood. These can all contribute to poor mental health

Low mood, sadness and depression audio guide

In this 10-minute audio guide, Dr Chris Williams talks you through ways to tackle low mood, sadness and depression.

Media last reviewed: 2 March 2018
Media review due: 2 March 2021
Information:

Further information and support

The mental health charity Mind offers more information on:

Your Mind Plan on the Every Mind Matters website sends personalised tips and advice to your email inbox.

Where to get NHS help for a low mood

Referring yourself for therapy

If you need more support, you can get free psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on the NHS.

You can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service without a referral from a GP.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you've had a low mood for more than 2 weeks
  • you're struggling to cope with a low mood
  • things you're trying yourself are not helping
  • you would prefer to get a referral from a GP

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or call 111 if:

  • you need help urgently, but it's not an emergency

111 can tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone. Go to 111.nhs.uk or call: 111.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:

  • you or someone you know needs immediate help
  • you have seriously harmed yourself – for example, by taking a drug overdose

A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a medical emergency.

Find your nearest A&E

Causes of a low mood

There are many reasons why you might feel low at some point in your life.

Any sort of difficult event or experience could lead to sadness or low self-esteem. Sometimes it's possible to feel low without there being an obvious reason.

Identifying the cause

If you know what's causing your low mood it might be easier to find ways to manage it.

Some examples of things that may cause a low mood include:

  • work – feeling pressure at work, unemployment or retirement
  • family – relationship difficulties, divorce or caring for someone
  • financial problems – unexpected bills or borrowing money
  • health – illness, injury or losing someone (bereavement)

Even significant life events such as buying a house, having a baby or planning a wedding could lead to feelings of sadness.

You might find it hard to explain to people why you feel this way, but talking to someone could help you find a solution.

Find out more about the 5 steps to mental wellbeing.

Conditions related to low mood and depression

A table showing conditions related to having a low mood or depression at certain times in your life
Symptoms Possible cause
feeling low or depressed in a seasonal pattern, usually during winter seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
feeling low or depressed after the birth of a child postnatal depression

Page last reviewed: 15 October 2019
Next review due: 15 October 2022