Treating Depression and Low Mood

Dark clouds obscuring the sun and lighter clouds - Depression and Low Mood

What is depression?

We all feel down, miserable, sad or fed-up. These feelings will pass within a few days, and they don’t significantly affect our ability to perform our normal daily activities. However, when feelings like these last more than a few days, or if they keep coming back, they can affect our everyday life substantially. That’s when they become a depression. Mild depression might feel like being in low spirits much of the time. While it doesn’t stop you getting on with life, it takes the fun out of it and makes everything much harder and seem less worthwhile. Severe depression can make you feel life is not worth living or that the world would be better off without you. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please talk with someone now. You can call the Samaritans on 116123 24-hours a day. Calls are free and will not appear on an itemised bill.

What does it feel like?

A drawing of a depressed woman laying down, and the same depressed woman laying down in a tropical setting, with captions of A Depression and A Tropical Depression respectively

Everyone experiences depression differently, but here are some common symptoms.

You may feel:

  • unhappy, down, upset or tearful
  • anxious, irritable, agitated or restless
  • empty or numb, having no interest in life
  • no pleasure in the things you used to enjoy
  • that you have lost confidence in yourself
  • worthless, hopeless or despairing
  • suicidal

And you might find:

  • yourself avoiding people, events or activities you usually enjoy
  • it difficult to concentrate, think clearly or make decisions
  • you have little to no interest in sex
  • you’re drinking, smoking or using drugs more than usual
  • you have difficulty sleeping, or you’re sleeping too much
  • that you have no appetite, or you’re eating too much
  • you are self-harming taking dangerous risks with your health

Why am I feeling this way?

Depression can strike anyone at any time. Sometimes it can come on quickly and might be triggered by some identifiable event. Often it just creeps up on you, leaving you without any joy, happiness or motivation in life.

Depression is often associated with adverse childhood experiences and negative life events and those with a family history of depression may be more prone to it. Some medication, as well as recreational drugs and alcohol, can also invoke depression.

How common is depression?

Depression is also surprisingly common. Mind (2017) reports that one in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year. They estimate that one in six people in England will experience a common mental health problem (such as depression or anxiety) in any week. While depression affects both men and women, women are twice as likely to suffer as men.

What causes depression?

Unfortunately, depression does not have a single, simple cause. There are a wide variety of things that might contribute to depression, and it has many different triggers. These can include:

Adverse childhood experiences

There is compelling evidence that adverse experiences in childhood have a life-long impact and can significantly impact our mental and physical health.

Stressful life events

Things like relationship breakdowns, family difficulties, work issues and any form of loss can make you more prone to depression. If you have a longstanding or life-threatening illness, this can also increase the risk of you becoming depressed.

Loneliness and isolation

Feelings of loneliness and isolation from friends and family can increase your risk of becoming depressed. Unfortunately, depression can also leave you feeling like you don’t want to see or speak to anyone, making the problem worse.

Alcohol and drugs

Many people use alcohol and recreational drugs to help them cope when things get hard. However, there is significant evidence that both alcohol and cannabis can bring on or increase the risk of depression.

Personality and family history

It seems that having personality traits such as being highly self-critical and low self-esteem can make you more susceptible to depression. You might also be more likely to suffered depression if close members of your family have suffered from it in the past.

How can I help myself?

Well-meaning friends and family might have told you to “pull yourself together” or “snap out of it”. If only it were that simple. You can’t “snap out of it”, any more than you can snap out of a broken leg. It just doesn’t work, and it’s not your fault. You cannot “snap out” of depression.

However, there are some things that you can do that are more likely to be helpful. These include:

  • getting more exercise
  • avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs
  • giving up smoking
  • healthy eating
  • maintaining social contact

You might also enjoy reading self-help books, joining a support group or practising emotional freedom techniques.

Talking openly with others can make a massive difference. It might be enough to chat with friends or family, or you might feel you need professional help.

Counselling can help?

Counselling provides a place you can “get it off your chest” without feeling like you’re a burden to friends and family. It can enable you to see things differently, putting them into perspective. It can also help you identify and unhelpful ways of thinking, then develop new, more helpful, ways of thinking and behaving.

Frequently asked questions

Should I take/stop talking antidepressants?

NICE guidelines do not recommend the use of antidepressants as an initial treatment for mild depression. However, we cannot offer advice as to whether or not you should take any form of medication. Please consult your GP or a pharmacist before stopping any medication you are taking.

Will counselling work for me?

We cannot guarantee any particular outcome for any individual, so cannot promise counselling will work for you. However, there is powerful evidence that interventions such as counselling, CBT and EFT are highly effective in treating depression.

How many sessions will I need?

It is impossible to say how many sessions any individual would need, especially without meeting them. If you have recently developed mild to moderate depression, maybe six to eight sessions would suffice. However, if you have been suffering from severe depression for a long time, you might require many more sessions.

The next step

If you would like to find out more about how counselling might help you, or if you would like to make an appointment to see a counsellor, please call us on 0151 329 3637 or email We would be happy to hear from you.

Further reading

Chapman (2004) Adverse childhood experiences and the risk of depressive disorders in adulthood. Journal of Affective Disorders
McLaughlin (2017) The long shadow of adverse childhood experiences. Psychological Science Agenda.
Mind (2017) Mental health facts and statistics.
NICE (2009) Depression in adults: recognition and management.
NHS (2019) Clinical depression.

Photo courtesy of, artwork by Gemma Correll.


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