Help us help others by donating to MindSpot

Donate now


Low mood and sadness are normal human emotions – we all feel sad or low at times. We use lots of different words to describe feelings of sadness, including feeling blue, unhappy, down or flat. Experiencing the occasional low mood or sadness is normal and nothing to worry about.

Depression is diagnosed when symptoms of sadness and low mood are severe, happen too often, and affect a person’s ability to live the life they want.

Symptoms of low mood and depression

When we experience low mood or sadness, we are often affected by three types of symptoms; unhelpful thoughts, physical symptoms and unhelpful behaviours.

Unhelpful thoughts

  • Self-critical and negative thoughts about ourselves
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless about ourselves or the future

Physical symptoms

  • Feeling tired or exhausted
  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Reduced sexual interest
  • Walking or moving more slowly
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having poor attention and poor memory

Unhelpful behaviours

  • Becoming more irritable
  • Avoiding people and places, including things we used to enjoy doing
  • Not getting the same pleasure from our usual activities

Differences between low mood and depression

There are differences between experiencing occasional feelings of sadness and having depression. It is good to know these differences so we can recognise them in ourselves or a loved one and seek help when appropriate. It is important to remember that depression should only be diagnosed by a registered and experienced health professional.​ Depression can also occur together with an anxiety disorder, which can make it harder to recover.

About 1 million Australians experience depression each year. Many more people have less severe symptoms which affect the quality of their life.

If you would like to know more about your emotional wellbeing or whether you have symptoms of depression, you can take our short quiz. Your results will not be shared with anyone.

Depression is diagnosed when symptoms of low mood and sadness:

  • Are present for at least two weeks (many people experience symptoms for years before seeking treatment)
  • Are severe
  • Happen too often and
  • Affect a person’s ability to live the life they want
Depression is a serious condition

Depression often makes us feel hopeless and helpless and can lead to suicidal thoughts. When people are depressed they may have thoughts of hurting themselves or of ending their life. If you are having such thoughts please urgently contact Lifeline (13 11 14), your GP, another health professional, or your local mental health team or find other services that can help. If you require immediate assistance, dial 000.

Managing depression

We know that depression and depressive symptoms can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. The good news is that depression can be treated. We have worked with thousands of Australians with depression, and our results show that people’s symptoms often reduce by half after treatment.​

Beating depression is hard work – it takes courage, commitment and practice.

Having depression does not mean that a person has a weak personality or a weak character. Instead, we believe that people with depression often have not had a chance to learn skills for managing these symptoms. Psychological treatment programs, such as those offered by MindSpot, can help people with depression learn about their symptoms, learn skills for managing these symptoms, and then gradually resume their usual activities. Getting effective treatment for depression often also reduces symptoms of other psychological disorders, such as anxiety disorders.

People who have symptoms of sadness and low mood but do not have depression, can also benefit from learning the skills taught in psychological treatment programs. This is known as early intervention. Early intervention can stop symptoms from becoming chronic and severe.

We also know that the symptoms of depression can make it hard for people to recover, so it isn’t unusual for people to try treatment several times, or have reminder-sessions once treatment is over to help them stay well. People often find that they are more resilient following treatment and can bounce back more quickly, even if their symptoms return.

For more information about treatment options and assistance for depression:

  • Contact MindSpot or call 1800 61 44 34 to discuss our assessment and treatment options or other services that may help
  • Talk to your GP
  • See a psychologist, psychiatrist, or another mental health professional

Start your assessment now