About depression (low mood)
Depression is a very common problem.
Many people feel ‘low’ or ‘down in the dumps’ at times, but for some people the problem becomes much worse and ‘normal’ life becomes difficult.
In its mildest form, depression does not stop a person from leading a normal life – however, there is cause for concern if it affects your daily life.
You should seek help if your depression does not seem to be getting any better and seek urgent help if you are having thoughts of death or suicide (killing yourself).
What triggers depression?
Depression differs from person to person. There are many different triggers for depression.
Some people are born with a tendency to become depressed more easily than others.
Some people will have a significant life event which can trigger these feelings. For example, money worries, losing a job, a relationship breakdown or a death in the family and for some people, depression can come on for no obvious reason.
When depression begins to affect your life, it is best to seek help and advice from your GP.
Effects of depression
Depression can affect every aspect of your life – it can make you feel tearful, or feel guilty, or you may lose interest in things you have previously enjoyed. As a result, depression may make you lose confidence in your abilities.
Feelings of hopelessness and negative thinking are common symptoms of depression and can make your problems seem worse than they really are.
Depression can affect people in many ways. Some become withdrawn and sad and will avoid contact with family and friends. Whilst others may feel the need to be around people all the time or drink more alcohol or smoke more than they previously did.
Depression can be treated and well managed. You will need to see your GP for a diagnosis and treatment programme.
Most people are treated for depression by their GP. Your GP may suggest a ‘talking treatment’ (counselling or therapy) or antidepressant tablets, or both. Your GP may refer you to a specialist mental health worker, for example a psychiatrist, counsellor, community psychiatric nurse or psychologist.
Specialist mental health workers will help you to understand your own issues and begin to work out ways of helping you to overcome your depression.
Typical signs of depression
Emotional signs of depression:
You might feel sad, low or miserable.
You might feel like crying or cry all the time.
You might get little or no pleasure from life.
You might lose interest in family, friends and your favourite things.
You might feel useless, helpless and hopeless.
You might feel anxious, agitated or worried all the time.
You may find that you just don’t feel ‘right’.
You may lose confidence in yourself and your ability to do things.
You may have suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hurting others.
Physical signs of depression:
You might feel tired all the time or have low energy levels.
You may have problems sleeping or wake throughout the night and then find that events run over in your head preventing you from getting off to sleep again.
You might find that you wake early in the morning.
- Your appetite may change – you may go off your food completely or you may want to eat lots of comfort type foods. This can result in either weight gain orunintentional weight loss.
You may have issues with your self esteem.
You might not want to get out of bed or feel like getting washed and dressed each day.
You might find yourself being extra sensitive to everything around you, and may blame yourself for things going wrong even if you have no control over them.
You may have problems concentrating on daily tasks and activities.
You may go off sex.
You may not be able to motivate yourself – such as not wanting to go to work or do housework.
You may have various aches, pains or physical symptoms that are not caused by another health condition.
Looking after yourself
Increasing physical activity, for example even a short 10 minute walk, can help to improve how you feel, and may make you feel less tired. Exercise helps boost your serotonin levels – these are feel-good hormones.
If you have not exercised in a long time, check with your doctor that you have no underlying health problems that might cause you to hurt yourself.
Try a brisk walk every day if you do not feel ready to undertake a rigorous exercise regime.
Try to get involved in activities and pastimes you previously enjoyed – even if you don’t feel like it.
There may be small tasks in the house or garden that you can do. Tackling small tasks that you may have been avoiding may help you to feel better about yourself.
Try not to drink too much alcohol – drinking too much can make your situation seem worse than it is.
Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Although quitting might be difficult to begin with, you will soon feel the benefits of your healthier lifestyle.
If you can’t manage to stop smoking all together just now, at least try to cut down and smoke as few cigarettes as possible.
If you need help with quitting you should visit your GP for advice. Or visit the NHS stop smoking website.
Avoid illegal drugs – if you are already feeling low, illegal drugs can make you feel much worse.
Problem solving techniques
Try problem solving techniques – make lists, plan your days and reward yourself as you reach a goal.
Even the simplest of things like getting showered and dressed are achievements if you are severely depressed.
Identify negative thoughts
Identify negative thoughts and try to turn them into something positive.
For example if you have had a bad day at work, remember it is only one day and you have had many other good days.
Keep a diary of your moods, thoughts and feelings and let your GP or counsellor know if anything changes.
Learn to relax and de-stress.
Try listening to calming music, or taking up an exercise like yoga or pilates.
Yoga and pilates can also help you learn breathing exercises which may help if you are feeling anxious or upset.
A massage or meditation can help to cleanse your body and mind.
Join a self help group
Being around people who are experiencing the same feelings as you can help you come up with ways to cope with depression (low mood).
A balanced diet can help improve your mood.
Eating foods high in Omega 3 (such as in salmon, mackerel, sardines, walnuts and tofu) can have a positive effect on your mood by boosting your serotoninlevels.
Eating fish, beans and eggs (high protein foods) and foods with lots of vitamin B like bananas and avocados can also improve serotonin production and lighten your mood.
Avoid ‘bad mood food’ like chocolate, sugar, cake, biscuits, cheese, bread, alcohol and caffeine rich foods. They can give you a quick burst of energy and a sharp increase in blood sugar but then levels fall rapidly making your mood dip. They can cause you to be irritable, moody, anxious and tired.
If you are prescribed medicine for your depression, do not stop taking it (even if you feel well again) until you see your GP for a check up.
Be nice to yourself
Be nice to yourself and don’t put any pressure on yourself. Take each day as it comes and don’t be hard on yourself if you have a slip up or don’t achieve what you expected to.
Help from other sources
Relate for marriage or relationship difficulties – 0845 130 4010 begin_of_the_skype_highlightingFREE 0845 130 4010end_of_the_skype_highlighting
SANE a mental health support line – 0845 767 8000 begin_of_the_skype_highlightingFREE 0845 767 8000end_of_the_skype_highlighting open 1pm-11pm every day
Caring for someone with a mental illness (NHS Choices – Carers Direct)
Mental health support (NHS Choices – Carers Direct)