By: Dr. Hilary Booth, ND
Many people suffer from a low mood, but they often fly under their doctor’s radar because they don’t suffer from full depression. According to the DSM-V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the diagnosis of major depressive disorder requires five or more symptoms being present for two weeks, with at least one symptom involving depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure. Other criteria include weight change, insomnia, over sleeping, physical challenges, fatigue, inability to focus, feeling worthless, feeling excessive guilt, and recurrent thoughts of death.
You may have read through that list and realized that you experience some, or many, of these symptoms. However, to be diagnosed with depression the symptoms must cause “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning”. So what if you’re able to carry on with your daily life, despite feeling this way? Should you be told you’re fine and sent home to “just cheer up”? Absolutely not! You may be better described as having minor depression, or low mood.
The other concern with using a term like depression is that it brings stigmas with it from social, economic, and medical perspectives. There are many fears attached to the word “depressed”, so I am cautious with using that term in my practice. Yes, there is certainly an appropriate time and place for a diagnosis of depression. However, I find that many people fall through the gap between feeling good and being depressed. This is where the term “low mood” becomes helpful.
How do I know if I have low mood?
Most people already know if they are experiencing low mood. Mood is a very personal and individual thing. You may have some of the symptoms listed above, and they may not last a long time, come all at once, or prevent you from carrying on with your daily life. Low mood may also be a sign that your hormones or organ systems in the body have gone awry, so it’s important to share this with your Naturopathic Doctor.
What should I do if I suffer from low mood?
The most important thing I want readers to take from this article is that you should not suffer in silence if you are experiencing low mood. Does it mean you should rush out to get antidepressants or other major medical intervention? Probably not. However, it’s unhealthy minimize what you’re experiencing, and your mood deserves the same attentiveness as the rest of your health.
There are many options to help improve mood that don’t involve pharmaceuticals. Dietary changes can profoundly affect the mood, as our serotonin hormone is produced and stored in the gut. Exercise has been shown to increase endorphin release to give us pleasure. Supplements and herbs can alter hormone imbalances, and improve energy, mood, and concentration. Acupuncture and counseling are also wonderfully beneficial for people experiencing low mood.
The bottom line is that your mental health is important, and a low mood should not be overlooked. Speak with your Naturopathic Doctor to investigate your low mood and help you to find the assistance you need to keep your mood in a healthy place.