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Treatments for low mood

Find out about the range of treatments for low mood

There are a number of treatments for low mood, including self help, herbal remedies and medication; and the effectiveness of these often depends on the individual. On this page our mental wellbeing advisor, Marianna Kilburn, discusses the range of treatments available to people who are feeling a bit low.

An introduction to low mood treatment

All of us will experience feelings of low mood at some point in our lives. They usually come as a reaction to one or more events, causing us stress and making us feel anxious.

Most of us recover from these episodes quickly without the need for any treatment. However, some people find it necessary to seek assistance to help them overcome their problem, especially if stresses are severe.

This page describes some of the treatments you can use if you suffer from low mood. Before embarking on any of these, it will be worth asking yourself whether the symptoms you are experiencing relate to low mood or depression:

  • Low mood is similar to the normal range of emotions that people go through in their everyday lives. We sometimes describe these as feeling fed-up, down in the dumps or a bit sad. Symptoms tend to be mild and moods should lift, given time, as circumstances improve or with the arrival of good news.
  • Depression is a complex medical or psychiatric condition which can be severe and potentially life threatening if left untreated. Symptoms are more severe than that of low mood. If you think you are depressed, speak to your doctor.

As you follow the advice given, remember that treatments for low mood can take a little while before they begin to have their full effect, so patience and dedication are usually required.

Self-help measures

There are several things you can slip into your daily life which may have a significant impact in lifting your mood:

  • Write down your concerns – people suffering from low mood may have irrational, negative thoughts jumping into their minds. You begin to convince yourself that these are true, which only deepens your sadness. Write these thoughts down - it is often easier to see things in context and realistically on a sheet of paper when they are not bubbling over in your mind
  • Exercise – it can be frustrating when others say that exercise will make you feel better as this is not always true. However, a small amount of exercise every day releases endorphins into your brain which can lift your mood
  • Avoid alcohol – although it may help for a few hours, this has a depressant effect which will make you feel worse in the long run, particularly if you consume it regularly. If you can’t avoid alcohol completely, make an attempt to reduce the amount you consume
  • Do things you enjoy – giving yourself a break from work and worries will help massively to lift your mood. People often forget how important relaxation is, and taking time to slow down and simply ‘breathe’ often goes a long way to making you feel better
  • Mix with other people – isolating yourself from others will worsen your negative emotions. Mix and communicate with friends and family, especially positive people, as this will help you keep in touch with reality.

Talking therapies

Getting things off your mind (or chest) is often a great way to lift your mood. Talking therapies are designed to make it easier for you to share your feelings and problems with someone else who will then be able to guide your thought processes into a more positive pattern. This may be a doctor, psychologist or a cognitive behavioural therapist.

Each therapist will conduct sessions in a different manner, but most will encourage you to open up and acknowledge your concerns. This can be difficult or even painful but taking this one single step alone can often help lift your mood.

The therapist will also assist you with developing techniques which allow you to change the way you think – this will help turn what you would instinctively perceive to be a negative situation or experience into a positive one.

Some people find that a few sessions of talking therapy are all that is needed, while others find that continuing with the sessions intermittently or more regularly prevents them from relapsing into low mood. Your therapist will be able to advise you how best to proceed according to your individual circumstances.

Herbal remedies

These have been used for many years to help with the symptoms of low mood. The most well known and best researched is Hypericum, also known as St. John’s Wort. The herb works by influencing the chemical balance in your brain, encouraging a happier or more positive mood. Hypericum can be found in licensed herbal products such as Hyperiforce® St. John’s wort tablets.

Herbal remedies can be taken alongside other treatments such as talking therapies to complement their effect. However, it may not be suitable for you if you are taking some prescribed medicines, including the contraceptive pill. Always read the in-pack leaflet and if you are still not sure, check with your doctor, pharmacist or reputable health food store.

Conventional or prescribed medicines

These are usually the last resort for low mood because of their association with side effects.

If you have tried talking therapies and remedies, and find that none have helped lift your mood, it is important to speak to your doctor. They will check that you are not suffering from a more serious medical condition such as depression.

Your doctor may prescribe an anti-depressant to help ease your symptoms. There are a number of varieties of this class of medicine and your doctor will be in the best position to discuss which is going to be the most effective for you.

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