What is the difference between depression and low mood?

When you’re not feeling yourself, it can be hard to differentiate between just feeling a bit low or depression. Many people compare emotions to a spectrum of colour – when we’re feeling positive and happy our emotions fall on the light end of the colour spectrum, with our negative and unhappy emotions falling on the dark end of the spectrum.

Nearly all of us will experience a low mood at some point in our lifetime. Low mood can leave people feeling tired, irritable and sullen and is usually triggered by a specific life event, such as work pressures, financial worries or poor health. 

For some people, these bouts of low mood are short-term and generally manageable. However, for others, this feeling can continue over a prolonged period of time and can begin to have an impact on our ability to function, which is when these feelings can take a more problematic manifestation in our lives.

So how can you tell if what you’re experiencing is fleeting or something more severe that you should pay attention to?

Firstly we need to be able to identify the difference between the two.

What is low mood?

Low mood can be described as a short period of feeling tired, frustrated or having low self-esteem. These feelings tend to dissipate within a few weeks and improve when the initial issues have been resolved. Actions such as, getting more sleep, exercising or talking problems worries through with friends and family can help to alleviate these feelings of low mood. Although a low mood can leave us feeling drained and not operating at our peak, it is not a psychological illness and tends to reflect the state of current events in our lives – passing over time.

What is depression?

Unlike a low mood, depression develops if a range of stress factors occur at the same time and continues over a prolonged period, lasting over two weeks or more. When we feel depressed, we tend to experience a persistent low mood, lack of sex drive and a loss of interest in activities we would have previously enjoyed.  When left untreated, depression can leave us feeling extremely isolated and completely withdrawn from the world around us and is often the leading cause of suicide.

How do I know when I should get help?

Depression can affect people to different degrees but if you find yourself unable to function in daily life or withdrawing from friends and family, it may be time to get help. Depression is the predominant mental health problem worldwide, reportedly affecting over 3 million people in the UK alone so it is most of all important to remember that you are not alone. 

Although recovery can feel like a long and unachievable process when you have depression, it is important to understand that help is the key way to get you back to feeling your best.

As an evidence-based practice, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, in particular, is a highly recommended treatment for depression. The independent organisation, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence continuously recommend CBT for a wide range of mental health issues and research shows that CBT offers long-term benefits for depression sufferers.

How can CBT help?

When you decide to start CBT, you will work with your therapist to address some of your problems and develop positive thinking and behavioural patterns. If you have depression, you’re battling with a wide range of struggles and emotions that can cloud your overall judgement and perceptions of the world around you.

With the help of your therapist, CBT will not only help you process your emotions but also challenge some of the negative beliefs and assumptions you have developed over time.

As leading CBT providers and strong advocates of the benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy, we are proud to state that we achieve an 87 percent recovery rate for people that complete our therapy services.

We believe that when it comes to depression, it is important to be able to identify the signs early and take the necessary precautions for protecting your mental wellbeing.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, find out how CBT can help by calling one of our BABCP accredited therapists on 0207 929 7911.

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