Low mood and its more severe relative, depression, is a widespread issue. Whether it’s mild ‘blues’ or full-blown major depressive disorder, it and can range from what is known as ‘sub-threshold depression’ to severe major depressive disorder on the most extreme end.
The symptoms of depression and low mood can include:
- Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
- Little interest or pleasure in doing things
- Slowed down physically, or the opposite, feeling agitated
- Trouble getting motivated
- Social withdrawal
- Negative thoughts
- Feelings of overwhelm with decision making
- Appetite changes – you may crave carbohydrates or the opposite, have no appetite
- Low energy
- Sluggish thinking, poor concentration
- Feelings of excessive guilt or worthlessness
- Disrupted sleep – either sleeping too much or waking up in the early morning
- Suicidal thoughts or acts
Reasons for Depression
The reasons why someone gets depressed are complex and are often down to multiple factors. Different for each person, it can involve cognitive brain neural networking, genetics, environment, and physiological factors such as hormones, inflammatory chemicals, and sleep-wake cycle regulation. Lifestyle factors such as sleep, exercise, and diet are also thought to play a role. The role of stress and its relationship to our gut microbiome is another emerging factor in the causes of depression. Inflammation and neuroimmune factos and microglia also play a role in many forms of depression and may be a core factor in treatment resistant depression although research is still preliminary.
Often in the lead up to an initial depressive episode, significant stressors are involved. In recurrent depression, vulnerability to repeat episodes seems to increase due to a brain-driven process called kindling. Kindling involves central nervous system dysfunction and brain networks, decreased neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to build new cells and adapt), and more sleep dysfunction such as decreased slow-wave sleep.
If you suffer from a chronic illness or chronic pain, these conditions can also cause depression due to the illness or illness experience or make existing depression worse. Conditions such as chronic pain from any source, neurological disorders, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome/ME all increase the risk of depression and can go hand in hand.