There tends to be a common misconception that experiencing a low mood is ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’.
Indeed, this may reflect people’s tendency to find such an experience to be unpleasant; however, a low mood tends to be a common, and entirely normal, occurrence within most populations.
So, when does it become an issue or even depression, such that it may be beneficial to seek some additional support?
Whilst fairly non-prescriptive in answering this questioning, the advice tends to be to consider the impact that this low mood is having on various aspects of your life and your functioning. It is when there is a significant negative impact that additional support is likely to be of most value. This way of thinking seeks to help to separate low mood from its stigma as ‘wrong’.
Is It Time To Seek Help?
This may, of course, present in different ways for different people and, therefore, there is no definitive list of symptoms to watch out for when deciding to seek support. However, some examples may include:
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities;
- Significant weight loss when not dieting, or weight gain – or decrease or increase in appetite;
- A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement;
- Fatigue or loss of energy;
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt;
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness; and/or
- Recurrent thoughts of death and/or suicidal ideation.
A further consideration is the duration of the period of low mood. A diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, which is also commonly referred to as ‘clinical depression’ or simply ‘depression’, is sometimes characterised by the presence of low mood most of the day, nearly every day for a two-week period or more. This timeframe may therefore, also be useful as a rough guide in deciding whether additional support may be beneficial.
How to Manage Persistent Low Mood / Depression
Depression is common. Indeed, an estimated one million people in Australia experience depression in any one year, and one in six women and one in eight men will experience depression at some time in their life. Importantly, depression is also treatable and, whilst there are various treatments that are evidenced to be beneficial in managing depression (which may be helpful to discuss with a health professional), cognitive behavioural therapy approaches tend to be considered the ‘gold standard’ of psychological treatments.
As the name would suggest, this therapeutic approach typically focuses on:
- Identifying and modifying inaccurate beliefs and negative thought patterns (cognitions): Common examples of negative thoughts related to persistent low mood and depression include (but are not limited to): ‘I’m worthless’, ‘things will never get better’, ‘there is nothing good in my life’, and ‘I’m a failure’.
- Increasing involvement with positively rewarding activities (behaviours): Common examples of unhelpful or unrewarding behaviours related to depression include (but are not limited to): withdrawing from close relationships, ceasing usual hobbies and enjoyable activities, procrastination, and avoiding doing tasks at work or home.
This focus is underpinned by the idea that thoughts, emotions, and behaviours are interconnected, and that, therefore, negative thought patterns and unhelpful behaviours are central to the development and maintenance of depression. It is important however that any treatment is adapted to meet your specific needs, and therefore the treatment approach is likely to vary across different people.
If you are (or someone who you know is) experiencing depression and would like further support to manage the impact it is having on your life, please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment to have a talk with me.
You may also find it valuable to contact Beyond Blue (on 1300 224 636 or www.beyondblue.org.au), Lifeline (on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au), the Suicide Call Back Service (on 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au), or your local emergency services (on 000).
Author: Stu Tweedale, B PsySc (Hons), M OrgPsych.
Brisbane Psychologist Stu Tweedale is passionate about supporting people to create and pursue rich and meaningful lives, working with adults, adolescents, and children aged 8 and up. He uses evidence-based interventions to support each client to achieve their desired life.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Mt Gravatt on (07) 3088 5422, or M1 Psychology Loganholme on (7) 3067 9129.
- Better Health Channel, Victoria State Government. Depression Explained. Accessed on https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/depression
- Butler AC, Chapman JE, Forman EM, Beck AT. The empirical status of cognitive-behavioural therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Clin Psychol Rev. 2006;26: 17–31.
- National Institute for Clinical Excellence. Depression: management of depression in primary and secondary care. Clinical Guideline 23 2004.
- Olfson M, Blanco C, Marcus SC. Treatment of Adult Depression in the United States. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(10):1482–1491.