Low mood and sadness are normal human emotions. We all feel sad or low at times. There are lots of different words for these feelings, including feeling blue, unhappy, down or flat. Feeling sad is not, by itself, unusual or abnormal. Feeling sad is often a normal reaction to loss, change, or perceived threat.
Symptoms of Low Mood, Sadness and Depression
When we experience low mood and sadness we experience three types of symptoms:
1 - Unhelpful Thoughts:
Examples include: self-critical and negative thoughts about yourself. Feeling hopeless or helpless about yourself and the future. Other mental symptoms include having difficulty concentrating, having poor attention and poor memory.
2 - Physical Symptoms:
These include: feeling tired or exhausted, changes in sleep and appetite, reduced sexual interest, walking or moving more slowly.
3 - Changes in Behaviour:
Examples include: becoming more irritable, avoiding people and places, avoiding things we previously enjoyed, and not getting the same pleasure from our usual activities.
Because most of us feel sad or low at times we can usually all recognise some of these symptoms. However, there are important differences between feeling sad and low and having depression.
What Is Depression?
Depression (Major Depressive Disorder) is diagnosed when symptoms of sadness and low mood are severe, happen too often, and affect a person’s ability to live a normal life. These symptoms should be present for at least two weeks, although people may experience symptoms for years before seeking treatment.
About 4% of Australians will experience clinical levels of depression each year, but people may also have less severe symptoms which affect the quality of their life. Many people have symptoms that increase and decrease over time.
Depression is a serious condition. It often makes people feel hopeless and helpless and can lead to suicidal thoughts. Having depression does not mean that a person has a weak personality or a weak character. The symptoms of depression can make it hard for people to recover, so it isn’t unusual for people to try treatment several times, or have reminder-sessions once treatment is over to help them stay well. Depression is often comorbid with other disorders, including anxiety disorders, chronic health conditions, and substance use disorders.
Depression can be treated, regardless of age. People with subclinical symptoms of low mood and sadness can still benefit from treatment. This can stop symptoms from becoming severe. Effective treatment of depression also often reduces symptoms of other psychological disorders. Effective treatment also helps people become more resilient and less vulnerable to future challenges.
How Can PORTS Help?
PORTS provides expert assessment and treatment for people with symptoms of low mood, depression, anxiety, stress, worry, and substance use problems. PORTS will conduct an assessment to determine the severity and type of symptoms people are experiencing, identify if someone has an anxiety disorder, and make recommendations about treatment. We will then either treat the person at PORTS, or help them access appropriate help.