Mood Difficulties


Mood Difficulties

Depression is more common than you would think – in Australia, as many as 1 in 7 people experience depression – but the exact number of people affected by depression is probably even higher than this. Depression is often missed due to misinformation about symptoms, such as when people mistakenly believe that if they can get out of bed and get to work, then they mustn’t be depressed. Depression might also be minimised when people believe their depression is justified by a stressful time or a period of huge change.

While everyone feels down sometimes, there’s a difference between short-term low mood and depression. Regardless of whether you meet full criteria for a mood disorder, if your low mood isn’t lifting or if it’s affecting your day to day functioning it might be worthwhile seeking advice from a clinical psychologist. A clinical psychologist can provide you with strategies to manage symptoms of depression.  If you’ve had depression before, a clinical psychologist can also help you identify early warning signs and a plan for responding to early warning signs to reduce your risk for future depression.

Click here for more information on depression and tips for improving mood.


It’s normal to feel sad sometimes, but the feeling generally passes. When sad feelings persist, they may be a symptom of depression.

What Are The Symptoms Of Depression?

Symptoms of depression may vary from person to person, but common signs are:

  • Losing interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
  • Finding it harder than usual to get motivated or care about things
  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Not feeling hungry or eating more than usual
  • Feeling irritable and agitated
  • Preferring to spend time alone rather than with others
  • Finding it harder to get to sleep, waking more frequently through the night, or sleeping more than usual (including during the day)
  • Feeling worthless
  • Self-criticism or self-blame over little things
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Indecisiveness
  • Urges to self-harm
  • Thoughts about death and dying

What Causes Depression?

The exact cause of depression isn’t known, but depression is likely to be the result of a combination of factors.  Factors that may increase your vulnerability for depression include:

  • Genetic factors
  • A negative thinking style
  • Low self-esteem
  • Critical self-talk
  • Sensitivity to perceived criticism

Depression can make things feels hopeless and it can feel as though things will never get better, but this feeling is a symptom and there are a number of things that can be put in place to help you feel better.

Postnatal Depression

Having a baby is life changing – it’s exciting, but it’s also a lot of hard work. As many as 2 in 10 women develop depression after having a baby. Unlike the ‘baby blues’ which most women experience after giving birth, symptoms of postnatal depression are more severe and usually don’t improve without intervention. In the past it’s been assumed that postnatal depression only affects women, but new research suggests that some 3-10% of men also develop postnatal depression.

What Are The Symptoms Of Postnatal Depression?

Common symptoms of Postnatal Depression are:

  • Feeling sad, low, or helpless
  • Tearfulness or uncontrollable crying
  • Feeling guilty that you have a new baby and  aren’t filled with joy
  • Losing interest in activities that used to be enjoyable (including sex)
  • Feeling anxious and panicky, especially about your infants health
  • Feeling irritable, angry, and exhausted
  • Being unable to sleep, even when the baby goes down
  • Not feeling hungry or eating more than usual
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Indecisiveness
  • Preferring to be alone rather than with family and friends
  • Self-criticism (“I’m a bad mother”, “I’m the only one who can’t cope with being a mother”)

What Are The Risk Factors For Postnatal Depression?

Having Postnatal Depression doesn’t say anything about your ability to be a good parent – it can affect anyone. Factors that may put some mums at a higher risk are:

  • A lack of social support (including relationship stress)
  • Having a baby who is difficult to settle
  • Difficulties adjusting to a new work/life balance
  • Birth complications or trauma
  • Baby or mum health problems post-birth
  • Mismatched expectations between the predicted and actual experience of parenthood
  • Perfectionistic personality traits
  • Difficulties breastfeeding
  • Bodily changes and changes to appearance

A new baby can be challenging so women often miss symptoms of postnatal depression.  Woman can also feel ashamed or embarrassed about their symptoms and avoid seeking help.  If you think you may be experiencing Postnatal Depression it’s important you discuss this with a close friend, family member or your general practitioner.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar is a complex disorder which causes severe shifts in mood. The majority of people with bipolar experience episodes of both mania and depression, but some people experience mania only, or symptoms of mania and depression simultaneously.

What Are The Symptoms Of Mania?

The manic episodes of bipolar are characterised by feelings of euphoria or irritability and intense agitation. Other key symptoms of mania include:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Being easily distracted
  • Talking non-stop (often over the top of other people)
  • Needing less sleep
  • Feeling energized (despite needing little sleep)
  • Feeling highly important and more confident than usual
  • “Reckless” or “risky” behaviour, like spending or gambling excessive amounts of money and promiscuous or

In acute manic episodes people with Bipolar may also experience delusions and hallucinations.

How Is Bipolar Diagnosed

There are four types of Bipolar Disorder:

  • Bipolar I Disorder
  • Bipolar II Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
  • Cyclothymic Disorder

Bipolar I is the most severe of the Bipolar Disorders and is diagnosed when a patient has experienced at least one episode of mania and one episode of depression. Individuals with Bipolar II experience shifts in mood between depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, which are less severe than manic episodes and do not require a hospital admission. Cyclothymic Disorder or Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar involving shifts in mood between mild depression and hypomania over at least a two year period.

The highs and lows of Bipolar can impact a person’s relationships, their career, and their financial position.  Effective treatment (a combination of medication and psychological strategies) can help to reduce the severity of changes in mood and reduce the risk of relapse.