Feeling fed-up, down in the dumps or moody is something we have all experienced. Here at A.Vogel Talks Low Mood, mental wellbeing advisor Marianna Kilburn explores the nature of low mood, its causes symptoms and treatments, as well as its relationship to more serious conditions like depression. We have also provided a Q&A service where you can ask Marianna any questions you have about low mood.
Unlike depression, those suffering low mood will feel their mood lift (even a little) when good news arrives. In addition, mood swings (being happy one day and sad the next), can be a part of feeling low in mood.
We are more likely to suffer from low mood when under stress. This emotional position gives us a lower ‘capacity’ to cope with the everyday problems we might otherwise be able to take in our stride. This is the reason that anxiety can often accompany episodes of low mood.
It is important to establish if the emotions you are experiencing are due to low mood or depression. Although sharing many similar features, the two conditions are usually managed differently.
Low mood is part of the normal spectrum of emotions we go through in our daily lives. Moods tend to get better as circumstances improve or with the arrival of good news. Depression is a complex medical or psychiatric condition which may be severe and potentially life threatening if left untreated.
The main difference between low mood and depression is that symptoms of depression tend to be more severe and chronic. They also last longer or have a tendency to recur. Depression is also likely to interfere with everyday life – for example, someone with the condition may not have the motivation to leave the house for days at a time.
Just as some people are more prone to feeling depressed, there are those who have a personality make-up giving them a greater tendency to low mood and more likely to feel fed-up, down or sad.
People have a remarkably wide range of personalities. Some just seem cheerful all the time whereas others appear to be constantly weighed down by life’s problems.
One of the main causes of low mood is our mental attitude when we face everyday situations outside our comfort zone. These triggers of low mood include:
Stress – at work or at home. Probably the most common trigger of low mood
Loss of job – another form of stress, but made more complex because of the financial insecurity that comes with it
Empty nest – this is when one or more children leave home. It appears to affect women more than men
Bereavement – sadness and a feeling of deep loss are very natural emotions experienced with the loss of a close relative or friend. Some people never recover from bereavement with low mood developing into depression
Alcohol – this is often used by people to make them more relaxed and ‘happier’. However, the solution is temporary and may exacerbate the problem
Hormonal changes in women – low mood can be triggered by changes in the female hormones. It can be seen at some points in the menstrual cycle as with pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). It can also be caused by pregnancy or the menopause. Female hormones have the ability to influence mood and as these fluctuate, they may cause a range of uncontrollable, unexpected and sometimes uncharacteristic emotions
Hormonal changes in men – just as with women, hormonal changes in men can also give rise to low mood and mood swings especially during the andropause, or ‘male menopause’.
There are many treatments which may be used to help improve low mood. These include:
Self-help measures – changes to your lifestyle, even small ones, can have a significant impact on your mood
Talking therapies – this covers a range of treatments including counselling and psychotherapy. A medical professional will be able to guide and influence your thought processes to a more positive outlook
Herbal remedies – natural remedies such as St John’s wort (Hypericum) have been used for many years to help with the symptoms of low mood
Conventional medicines – these are prescribed medicines which change the chemical balance in your brain. However, they are not usually prescribed as treatments of first choice for low mood because of the association with side effects.
Low mood is an unpleasant condition while it lasts and for most, there is no obvious need to see a doctor. It is worth remembering that you are not alone, and most of the population will have experienced similar episodes of feeling sad, down or fed-up.
However, if you feel that your condition is worsening and suspect that it may be progressing to depression, it is important to speak to your doctor. Signs of this happening include more frequent bouts of low mood, finding it difficult to improve your mood, inability to feel happy even with close friends or when you hear good news.
In addition, seek medical attention immediately if you are having any thoughts of suicide.
Marianna works in central London as a Trainer and In Store Health Adviser for A Vogel. She is also a Practitioner Life Coach with both personal and professional experience in stress management. She has a passion for helping people tap into their inner wisdom and maximise their potential for good health. Marianna’s aim, in these pages, is to share tools and tricks for well-being and encourage a search for personal solutions to life’s challenges.
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