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Picture of older woman looking very down and depressed

Depression and Low Mood

Depression involves persistent feelings of sadness for weeks or months, rather than just a few days. Psychologists can make distinctions about its intensity and impact:  mild depression has some impact on daily life; moderate depression has a significant impact on daily life, while severe depression makes it very challenging to get through daily life.

  • Depression is very prevalent with around 1 in 6 (16%) adults experiencing moderate to severe depressive symptoms (census 2021 data); this is similar to rates found in summer 2021 (17%) but higher than pre-pandemic levels (10%).
  • depression can also be more prevalent in certain groups incl women (19%), those with long-term illness (59%), unpaid carers (37%), and young adults aged 16 to 29 years (28%).

Depression is not a sign of weakness or something you can "snap out of" by "pulling yourself together". Instead it is a prevalent, diagnosable and treatable health condition, such that full recovery is quite possible.


Symptoms of depression are varied, but can include: 

  • continuous low mood or sadness; 
  • feeling hopeless and helpless; being tearful
  • feeling guilt-ridden, irritable and/or intolerant of others  
  • limited motivation and energy, even for everyday tasks; moving more slowly than usual 
  • taking part in fewer social activities and avoiding contact with friends; limited interest or enjoyment for hobbies 
  • appetite problems which can include loss of appetite, or over-eating in an attempt to counteract negative feelings 
  • sleep disruption and disturbed sleep patterns, including difficulties getting off to sleep or early morning waking
  • difficulties concentrating, and memory problems

Treatment towards better

Depression is highly treatable with cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), sometimes alongside anti-depressant medicines. The CBT therapist aims to alleviates emotional distress by working collaboratively with clients to break problems into smaller parts and troubleshooting these. The latter can include identifying and ultimately changing maladaptive thinking and thoughts.

A first step even before therapy begins is selfcare. Those feeling down can benefit by making lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise, cutting down on alcohol, stopping smoking and eating more healthily.  Self-care and compassion are also vital because symptoms can improve when we look after ourselves, and treat ourselves with kindness, care and respect (for selfcare ideas see tab on DAKtivism). 

“Absolutely I would recommend CBT, it was a godsend. I was in a tough place ... I was having a hard time physically postcovid; everything was low incl my energy and my mood. I was not sure what to think at the start, but over the sessions I started to implement the strategies, and they have definitely helped me. I am just nicer to myself – and I am nicer to everyone. When you are nicer to yourself you feel better. You did a real good job Ann. I would highly recommend you.”

– Martin: Low mood and anxiety (R459; 6sessions)

CBT has been just sooo beneficial - to have tools and strategies to cope, as opposed to just talking about how I feel. I did have a big crisis when I got referred; ... I had been going to the GP so often that The Mental Health Dept would have been the next port of call, but they are now definitely off the radar. That is not a route I would want I just felt I didn’t know where to go next, or what to do but that has now all changed. The tools I now have really work, and I am now the one with the expertise to create the life I want. I have definitely come around to a different way of thinking - a more “up” way of thinking, and I would absolutely recommend this. Ann – you are awesome!!!

– Sandra: low mood, anxiety and low confidence (R366, 6sessions)

“At the start I could not sit without bursting out crying; life was a mess and I was overwhelmed. I was feeling hopeless and I had thought that things would never get sorted, but a lot of this is down to the power of the thoughts and these are not a mess any more. And life is now great.
I was out walking at the weekend .. and I am looking forward to getting back into things … Now the clouds have lifted I see things an awful lot more clearly, and I can see past the downs in life. It is easy to sit feeling sorry for yourself, and open a bottle of whatever, but now I have a life to live and things to do. I would recommend this CBT 100%.”

– Sam: low mood and anxiety (R391,6 sessions)

"Im definitely very happy to have done CBT. It has really worked. I was not in a good place at the start with low mood, panic and stress. But from the start to now it is like zero-to-hero! Im just in a whole different place now in terms of mood. The strategies come in and you just use them. I now have my life back. I definitely have the fun back in life (laughing); Im just back from holiday, and I am getting out and about and doing things. Im very happy – the strategies are fantastic and they really
work. Thanks so much!

– Mags: low mood, panic, and stress (R374; 6 sessions)

"I didn’t used to like myself. ... I was just getting dragged down, and I wasted a lot of time being down when I could have been happy and out enjoying myself. With CBT I got to know myself better, and I learnt to notice and express how I felt. ... I feel way more confident now about the future."


"I had never spoken to anyone about things but I was struggling to cope. … Therapy was great and Im glad I came. It is the simple things that are the most help. These have a big effect. At the start … my head was full of the wrong stuff; and now, I am replacing it with the good stuff, e.g. things that make me feel happy. ... I have been to the gym now a few times, and Im doing more walking.   When your thoughts change, you see things differently, you are more open-minded and life is different. Life is better, and you can be a better person.    If I'm truthful, everybody should have this."

– Michael: depression and anxiety (R360, 6sessions)