Typical symptoms of low mood include: - Low self esteem - Worrying - ...
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Feeling fed-up, down or sad?
It is normal to feel down occasionally, but when does this become a problem?
Feeling fed up, sad or down every now and then is a normal part of life. Marianna Kilburn, our mental wellbeing advisor, discusses what the causes and symptoms of low mood are, how it differs from depression, what similarities they share and what you can do to help yourself.
Introduction to low mood
Most of us have said it: ‘I’m fed-up – this problem won’t go away’; ‘I’m feeling disappointed that my job is not going better’; ‘I’m down because my boyfriend has not phoned today’.
These emotions of feeling a bit down, fed-up or sad are described by doctors as ‘low mood’ and are part and parcel of life’s rich tapestry. As someone once said ‘if you don’t feel sadness, you won’t know when you are happy’.
Usually, these episodes are short-lived. The problem goes away: you get a pay rise, your boyfriend phones. You feel much happier and the feeling of low mood vanishes.
The build-up of emotion
For some, problems do not resolve easily and even if these are small, the build up of stress continues. Feelings of being down or low in mood persist and for some, may develop into mild depression. Some may also become anxious or experience panic attacks.
It is difficult to know if low mood and depression have become more common or whether we are just becoming more aware of these emotions. Either way, it seems that almost everybody has gone through the experience of feeling sad, down or fed-up at some point in their life.
The human range of emotions is vast, and it is not yet fully understood how or why we experience these emotions. Mood can be put on a spectrum, ranging from misery and depression at one end to joy and ecstasy at the other. Most people experience a range of emotions somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, and rarely reach the extremities.
Low mood or depression?
Low mood is found at one end of the unhappiness spectrum. This shares a border with mild depression if your mood continues to be low for a long period of time because you are unable to pick yourself up.
However the boundary between the two is not clear. It often takes a medical professional such as a doctor or psychiatrist to determine if you are experiencing symptoms of depression or low mood associated with normal day-to-day living.
When you are feeling sad, down or fed-up, it is important to keep an eye on your feelings and symptoms as these will give you the clearest indication of the root cause of your problem. If you are feeling a bit down because it is the end of your holiday and are not looking forward to the normal routine of work and housework, or after some bad news, the chances are that you will feel sad for a few days but as things go back to normal, this feeling will lift.
If your low mood is persistant and begins to interfere with your daily life – for example if you start cancelling plans, losing touch with friends, ending relationships or giving up hobbies – then this is a sign that your low mood may actually be a form of depression.
If you are concerned about your mental health, a trip to your GP or counsellor will help you figure out what is going on.
What can I do to ease my symptoms?
Low mood leading to you feeling fed-up, down or sad, is part of normal life and when these episodes occur, there are several things you can do to help yourself.
St. John’s wort can be really helpful at gently raising your mood, so try this for a few weeks and see if it helps.
Try to get out and about, see some friends and take some time to do the things you enjoy. Getting some exercise will also help you to clear your head, and the release of seratonin will lift your mood.
For some mroe advice, have a look at the low mood treatment page.
If you think you have depression, you should consult your doctor as this is a serious condition that needs medical supervision.