depression and low mood

Most of us have times in our lives when we feel sad or low in mood; for example, after an important relationship breaks down, a loved one passes away, or when faced with redundancy.  For many of us, our mood starts to improve naturally – we tend to feel a bit better and brighter after a few weeks, even if the trigger for a change in mood remains very much on our minds.

Some people, however, experience a persistent low mood that becomes hard to shift, potentially resulting in an episode of depression.  Depression often, but not always, occurs in response to difficult or challenging life experiences.  It can also occur as a result of the ways in which we make sense of these events, or our past and current circumstances more generally.  For some people, the triggers, or onset, of their low mood may feel very clear.  For others however, it may be very hard to pinpoint reasons for feeling down.

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • low mood
  • sadness
  • reduced or increased appetite and sleep
  • lack of interest in routine and ordinarily enjoyable activities
  • poor motivation and concentration
  • anger and irritability
  • self-critical or negative thoughts, thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

Depression can feel all encompassing – sometimes people describe this as similar to falling into a well or a black hole – and it can become difficult to do the things we have to do.  Maintaining social relationships can seem too effortful, resulting in isolation and loneliness.

What can help?

Importantly, there are several evidence-based talking therapies for depression; specifically, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness-based Approaches.  Some people benefit from antidepressant medication, and/or structured physical exercise programmes, alongside therapy.  There are also several contemporary therapies, that are effective for addressing low mood.  These include Compassion Focused Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.  These therapies are sometimes called ‘Third Wave CBT Therapies’, as they contain elements of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in their approach and theoretical basis.