It’s not unusual to hear terms such as low mood, depressive mood and depression linked together. However, when we refer to depressive mood and major depression, we are talking about two completely different conditions. The differences between a depressive mood and major depression are:
A depressive mood can include:
- Feelings of sadness
- Feelings of panic and anxiety
- Low self-esteem
These feelings, however, will lift after a few days or a few weeks. To resolve these kinds of feelings there may be some changes that need to be made such as:
- Exercise: regular exercise is a good way to bust a low mood. Exercise releases endorphins and gets the blood flowing, two natural mood lifters.
- Sunlight: avoid locking yourself in a dark, poorly vented home/office. Sunlight is the key in helping our bodies to synchronise its natural rhythms (eating, sleep and sex drive). If our bodies don’t get enough sunlight, our hormones can become unbalanced which results in mood disturbances and feelings associated with low mood. Additionally, low levels of Vitamin D can affect our mood. Sunlight is our main provider of Vitamin D, so it is important to spend time outdoors, even on cloudy days.
- Support: if you feel low then let your friends and family know. Talk about how you feel and any symptoms that you may be experiencing. Getting things off your chest and getting support or advice from others can help to ease these symptoms.
- Rest: rest is important and especially during the winter. Try and go to bed an hour earlier than usual.
- Senses: in order to lift your mood, use all of your senses. The only sense that is linked to the emotional part of our brains is our sense of smell so a smell or scent that conjures up happy memories i.e. memories related to childhood or a favourite holiday can help to lighten your mood.
- Stress: to prevent distress try yoga, meditation, deep breathing or muscle relaxation techniques. Visualisation is also another effective technique.
- Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine: These items are stimulants and sap your nervous system. The key is to eat healthily and drink plenty of water. Dehydration is a factor which can cause headaches and results in fatigue, feeling low and stress.
If a low mood still does not go away, it could be a sign of major depression, otherwise referred to as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).
Major depression, also referred to as major depressive disorder or unipolar disorder is described as having a lack of interest in any external activity or a continual feeling of sadness. Thankfully, major depression is well recognised and understood by mental health professionals and it is a condition that can be treated through the use of medication or therapy.
The Causes of Major Depression
We don’t know exactly what causes depression and there could in fact be a number of factors involved including:
- Genetics: depression tends to be more common for those who have family members that have had or have the condition. We are still seeking to find out if there are specific genes that cause depression.
- Chemicals: natural chemicals that occur in our brains are known as neurotransmitters. These are likely to play a role in the cause of depression.
- Biological Changes: it is believed that people with depression have had a physical change occur in their brains. It is not yet understood exactly how these changes occur
- Hormones: changes in our hormones occur that may trigger depression. These kinds of changes can occur during pregnancy or after the birth of a child (postpartum). Additionally, changes related to menopause and thyroid issues can also play a role in depression.
Other Risk Factors
There do seem to be other risk factors that can trigger or cause depression. These include:
- Stressful or traumatic events such as the death of a loved one, sexual or physical abuse, financial issues or a difficult relationship.
- Individual personality traits such as being pessimistic, self-critical, dependent, or having low self-esteem.
- Family members (related through blood) with a history of depression, suicide, bipolar disorder or alcoholism.
- A history of other mental health disorders including PTSD, eating disorders or anxiety disorders.
- Some medications such as sleeping pills or certain high blood pressure related medications.
- Suffering from a serious illness such as cancer, heart disease or stroke.
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
The Signs and Symptoms of Major Depression
There are many symptoms related to major depression and these can include:
- Thinking negatively and unable to see a positive outcome
- Unable to focus
- Feeling agitated and irritable
- Lashing out at those around you
- Withdrawing from those around you
- Not interested in regular activities
- Feeling lethargic and tired
- Sleeping more than usual
- Weight loss or gain
- Having suicidal thoughts.
Complications Related to Major Depression
If depression isn’t treated then it can cause health, behavioral and emotional problems which will affect your everyday life. These include:
- Alcohol and/or drug abuse
- Obesity or excess weight gain which can lead to diabetes or heart disease.
- Social isolation
- Social phobia anxiety or panic disorder
- Feelings related to suicide
- Self-harm e.g. cutting oneself.
- Relationship problems or family conflicts
- Issues relayed to work/school
- Premature death related to medical issues
Treatment for Major Depression
There are a few treatment options for major depressive disorder. These include medication, TMS or psychotherapy. If you or someone you know is experiencing some of the symptoms related to major depression medical help needs to be sought.
Prevention of Major Depression
Although there is no clear way of preventing depression, there are techniques which can help:
- Turn to Family and Friends: remember that your family and friends are the best port of call when times are tough.
- Aim to Control Stress: this will help you to become resilient and improve your self-esteem.
- Seek Treatment as Early as Possible: this will help you to take control of your depression and prevent it from getting any worse.
- Look into Long-Term Maintenance Treatment: this is the best way of preventing a relapse.