Understanding Why We Sometimes Feel Down: Exploring Depression and Its Triggers

Depression and Low Mood
on Wed 15 May

 

Everyone experiences feelings of sadness or low mood at times. These emotions are a natural part of being human and can arise from various triggers. However, if these feelings become persistent and begin to disrupt daily life, they might indicate the onset of depression. Understanding the causes of low mood and recognising the signs of depression can assist individuals in seeking the right support and interventions.

Differentiating Between Feeling Down and Depression

It's important to differentiate between temporary feelings of sadness and clinical depression. Feeling down is often a transient state that can be influenced by external events or internal states, while depression is a persistent and pervasive mood disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and functions in daily life.

Feeling Down:

  • Temporary and usually has an identifiable cause.
  • Does not significantly impair daily functioning.
  • Can be alleviated with positive experiences or self-care.

Depression:

  • Persistent sadness or low mood lasting for weeks or months.
  • Accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, changes in sleep and appetite, and loss of interest in activities.
  • Significantly impairs daily functioning and quality of life.
  • Requires professional intervention and treatment.

Common Reasons for Feeling Down

There are several common reasons why people may feel down, these may include:

  1. Biological Factors:

    • Chemical Imbalances: Neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine play crucial roles in regulating mood. Imbalances in these chemicals can contribute to feelings of sadness.
    • Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those experienced during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause, can affect mood.
    • Genetic Predisposition: A family history of mood disorders can increase the likelihood of experiencing similar issues.
  2. Psychological Factors:

    • Stress and Anxiety: Chronic stress and anxiety can drain emotional resources, leading to periods of feeling down.
    • Negative Thought Patterns: Cognitive distortions, such as overgeneralizing, catastrophizing, or negative self-talk, can perpetuate feelings of sadness.
    • Unresolved Emotional Issues: Past traumas or unresolved emotional conflicts can resurface and impact current mood.
  3. Environmental Factors:

    • Seasonal Changes: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at certain times of the year, typically in winter when daylight hours are shorter.
    • Lack of Sunlight: Insufficient exposure to natural light can disrupt the production of melatonin and serotonin, influencing mood.
    • Lifestyle Factors: Poor diet, lack of physical activity, inadequate sleep, and social isolation can all contribute to feelings of sadness.
  4. Life Changing Events:

    • Loss and Grief: The death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or other significant losses can lead to profound sadness.
    • Major Transitions: Life events such as moving, changing jobs, or starting or ending a significant relationship can be stressful and impact emotional well-being.
    • Health Issues: Chronic illness, injury, or significant changes in physical health can affect mood and outlook on life.

The Impact of Other People's Moods

Another significant factor influencing our mood is the emotional state of those around us. This phenomenon, known as emotional contagion, explains why we can "catch" feelings from others, much like instantly catching a cold.

  1. Empathy:

    • Humans are naturally empathetic. We have the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. When we see someone else experiencing strong emotions, our brain can mirror those emotions, leading us to feel similarly.
  2. Social Dynamics:

    • Being in close proximity to others who are experiencing strong emotions creates a shared emotional environment. For example, a stressful workplace can make it challenging to remain unaffected by the general atmosphere of tension and anxiety.
  3. Nonverbal Cues:

    • We often pick up on nonverbal signals such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. These cues can convey emotions powerfully, influencing our own emotional state.
  4. Relationships:

    • The closer we are to someone emotionally, the more likely we are to be affected by their mood. Family members, close friends, and partners can significantly influence our emotional state, both positively and negatively.
  5. Social Identity:

    • Our sense of identity is often tied to the groups we belong to, such as family, friends, or workplace teams. The collective mood of these groups can impact our own mood as we align our emotions with the group's dynamics.

Recognising the Signs of Depression

Depression is a common and serious mood disorder that negatively affects how you feel, think, and handle daily activities. It goes beyond the normal feelings of sadness or low mood that everyone experiences from time to time. Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or a lack of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person's ability to function at work and at home.

Understanding when feeling down may be a sign of depression is crucial for seeking timely help. Some key signs of depression include:

  • Persistent Sadness: Feeling sad or empty most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Loss of Interest: Losing interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
  • Changes in Appetite or Weight: Significant weight loss or gain, or changes in appetite.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia or excessive sleeping.
  • Fatigue: Feeling tired or having little energy.
  • Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt: Experiencing excessive guilt or feelings of worthlessness.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Trouble thinking, concentrating, or making decisions.
  • Physical Symptoms: Unexplained aches and pains.
  • Thoughts of Death or Suicide: Frequent thoughts about death or suicidal ideation.

Seeking Help and Support

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of depression, it is important to seek professional help. This can include:

  • Therapy: Hypnotherapy, Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, or counselling can help address the underlying causes of depression and develop coping strategies.
  • Medication: Antidepressants can help correct chemical imbalances in the brain.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Regular exercise, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and social support can improve mood and overall well-being.
  • Support Groups: I advise against support groups as they can sometimes lock individuals into a cycle of negative thinking by reinforcing their identity as someone struggling with depression, rather than focusing on recovery and personal growth.

Hypnotherapy with Dr Iain Lightfoot, Clinical Hypnotherapist

Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool in addressing depression and feelings of low mood, and I incorporate the evidence-based Human Givens and Needs approach in my practice. This approach focuses on understanding and fulfilling essential emotional and psychological needs, such as security, attention, connection, and meaning. Through hypnotherapy, I help clients access their subconscious mind to reframe negative thought patterns, alleviate stress, and build resilience. By combining these techniques, we can work together to restore balance, promote well-being, and empower clients to lead fulfilling lives.

Conclusion

Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life, but persistent sadness may indicate depression. Understanding the various factors that contribute to low mood and recognizing the signs of depression can help individuals seek the support they need. Whether influenced by biological factors, psychological issues, environmental conditions, or the emotional states of others, it's important to address these feelings proactively. By fostering awareness and encouraging open conversations about mental health, we can support each other in navigating the complexities of our emotional experiences.

 

Take the first step towards a brighter future by contacting me today, and together we'll work to overcome your challenges and restore your sense of well-being.

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