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Low-grade Depression

What is low-grade depression and what could I do about it if I have it? Read on to find out.

1. What are the symptoms of low-grade depression?

Low grade depression isn't a technical medical term and depends on who's using it and their interpretation of it it. They could mean dysthymic disorder which is a persistent depression that in the case of 'low-grade' can often manifest as a kind of 'milder' on the surface depression, where the person is still considered to be functioning or performing their daily essential tasks, such as showering, going to work, but they're more or less consistently emotionally flat while doing so. Or the person may be referring to a sort of gradient scale of depression where a person displays some symptoms of depression but maybe not meet all of the criteria for clinically significant depression. 

2. What are the main medical differences between low-grade and high-grade depression?

High grade if referring to a scale, would mean depression where the person meets diagnostic criteria for depression (according to the DSM-V or ICD-10), whereas low grade may not meet clinically significant levels of depression. If referring to dysthymia then the main difference between that and major depressive disorder is time. Dysthymia is otherwise known as chronic depression that is persistent over time, whereas major depression may be more episodic, so the person experiences major lows and then returns to their personal baseline or 'normal' state (whatever normal is for that person).  It's worth noting that someone with dysthymia can still have an episode of major depression and is statistically likely to at some point if their depression is not addressed.

3. What five expert tips would you give to someone if they think they are experiencing low-grade depression?

a) If they are experiencing low grade depression, whether they suspect dysthymia, mild symptoms of depression or just any symptoms of depression, I would first encourage that person to speak to their GP to rule out any medical reasons for their mood, such as a thyroid disorder, low levels of certain vitamins and minerals in their blood etc.  b) They would benefit likely from at least one session with a reputable counsellor or psychotherapist to determine whether there are some things they can identify that are contributing to their mood, develop coping strategies, learn new tools or simply talk and have someone listen.  c) It is definitely important to identify sources of stress. It would be very beneficial to take yourself to somewhere quiet as soon as you have chance and list out everything that's causing stress or worrying you at the moment. Then you can see what you're dealing with and can problem solve: if you need to ask for help, ask for it, diarise things in, build in ways to release stress and tension, make time for relaxation, simplify where you can etc.

If you see the list and it overwhelms you, ask for support, whether from someone you trust personally or a professional.  d) Plan in fun! The best antidote to depression is laughter. Ask yourself how many times have I laughed today and you'll know from how you initially feel at your response to your answer whether that's enough for you. If it's not, then thought-shower how you can get more fun in each day - if you're stuck, ask for someone else's perspective who understands you.

If you have dysthymia, then it will take some persistence before you can start to break the state of flatness so bear this in mind if you think something isn't working. It can help to rate your mood on a 1-10 scale. Decide what each point is for you, write it down so you're clear and check in regularly throughout the day to assess and track your results. It can be very surprising what you find if you do this for a month. e) Lastly, movement. Vitality is the opposite to the lifelessness that is depression.  An expression of vitality is movement. Any movement will do to start with but movement that's also fun to you is even better. Try allowing yourself to dance like no-ones watching for a few of your favourite relatively upbeat or powerful songs and see how you feel afterwards. A brisk walk in nature is just as good. Move with friends if you can too if that appeals to you or you know you need that accountability - book an exercise class together or video-call each other doing the same home workout. Figure what could work for you and give it a fair go. 

4. Are there any good resources (books, podcasts etc) that you would recommend?

I would recommend the book A Monks Guide to Happiness by Gelong Thubten which is an insightful read and perspective on happiness. For Podcasts Fearn Cottons Happy Place has some episodic gems. In general, anything that is remotely enjoyable (and doesn't have harmful consequences) is going to help. You may need to rediscover what you are interested in now but you can always start with what you remember enjoying before, go as far back as childhood if you like! Do not give up, you are worth it. Persist and the depression with not be able to resist and will lift.

5. Are there any interesting stats, research papers or things to know about low-grade depression? How many people, for example, may have it in the UK etc? 

I hope this read has been helpful. If you would like to inquire about a session with me, then please feel free to have a browse of my site.

If you are magickaly inclined, you may be interested in my book, Wellness Magick, which can be a good jumping off point for you on your journey whether you're working with someone or not.

Sophie xo

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