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What is low mood and what causes low mood?

Low mood is an emotional state characterised by sadness, anxiety, low self-esteem, tiredness, and frustration. In its most severe form it becomes an ongoing problem that impacts your daily life (usually referred to as depression).

Sometimes low mood can be brought on by external factors such as the loss of a loved one, living with an illness, or stress at school, university, or work. However you can also experience low mood without there being an obvious external cause.

It is not true that you have to be suffering from severe low mood (depression) to speak to a doctor about how you’re feeling. Talking to someone about what you’re going through can help to resolve your feelings of sadness and worry. A doctor will also be able to give you practical advice about dealing with low mood; where appropriate they may prescribe medication and arrange counselling.

If your low mood is causing you to think about hurting yourself or ending your life, you should seek help as soon as possible. Call the emergency services, speak to the Samaritans, or reach out to a friend or loved one to tell them how you’re feeling.

You can contact the Samaritans on 116 123, or email them on jo@samaritans.org (further information available at the Samaritans website).

Common symptoms of low mood

You may be suffering from low mood or depression if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Feeling sad or tearful
  • Feeling bad about yourself
  • Feeling “empty”
  • Little interest or pleasure in doing things
  • Desire to isolate yourself from people
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sleeping too much
  • Feeling tired and lacking energy
  • Feeling irritated or agitated
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
  • Poor appetite
  • Overeating
  • Moving or speaking more slowly than normal

A key symptom of low mood is hopelessness – the fear that you will always feel this way, and that nobody can help you. It’s often this feeling of hopelessness and despair that leads to thoughts of harming yourself. The good news is that there are many different ways to tackle low mood, which range from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and antidepressants, to simply doing more exercise. The important thing is to let people know how you’re feeling and to ask for help.

 

Content reviewed by Jemma Shafier, a Doctor Care Anywhere GP

 

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