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Low mood and sadness are normal human emotions – we all feel sad or low at times. We use lots of different words to describe feelings of sadness, including feeling blue, unhappy, down or flat. Experiencing the occasional low mood or sadness is normal and nothing to worry about.
Depression is diagnosed when symptoms of sadness and low mood are severe, happen too often, and affect a person’s ability to live the life they want.
When we experience low mood or sadness, we are often affected by three types of symptoms; unhelpful thoughts, physical symptoms and unhelpful behaviours.
There are differences between experiencing occasional feelings of sadness and having depression. It is good to know these differences so we can recognise them in ourselves or a loved one and seek help when appropriate. It is important to remember that depression should only be diagnosed by a registered and experienced health professional. Depression can also occur together with an anxiety disorder, which can make it harder to recover.
About 1 million Australians experience depression each year. Many more people have less severe symptoms which affect the quality of their life.
If you would like to know more about your emotional wellbeing or whether you have symptoms of depression, you can take our short quiz. Your results will not be shared with anyone.
Depression is diagnosed when symptoms of low mood and sadness:
Depression is a serious condition
Depression often makes us feel hopeless and helpless and can lead to suicidal thoughts. When people are depressed they may have thoughts of hurting themselves or of ending their life. If you are having such thoughts please urgently contact Lifeline (13 11 14), your GP, another health professional, or your local mental health team or find other services that can help. If you require immediate assistance, dial 000.
We know that depression and depressive symptoms can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. The good news is that depression can be treated. We have worked with thousands of Australians with depression, and our results show that people’s symptoms often reduce by half after treatment.
Beating depression is hard work – it takes courage, commitment and practice.
Having depression does not mean that a person has a weak personality or a weak character. Instead, we believe that people with depression often have not had a chance to learn skills for managing these symptoms. Psychological treatment programs, such as those offered by MindSpot, can help people with depression learn about their symptoms, learn skills for managing these symptoms, and then gradually resume their usual activities. Getting effective treatment for depression often also reduces symptoms of other psychological disorders, such as anxiety disorders.
People who have symptoms of sadness and low mood but do not have depression, can also benefit from learning the skills taught in psychological treatment programs. This is known as early intervention. Early intervention can stop symptoms from becoming chronic and severe.
We also know that 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. People often find that they are more resilient following treatment and can bounce back more quickly, even if their symptoms return.