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Is It Depression Or Just A Bad Mood?

Depression is a common problem for people across the world. About 10 percent of the U.S. population over 18 has depression. Women report depression twice as often as men, though it’s not clear if this really shows how many men and women really have depression. And if you have already had depression once, you are at a higher risk of relapsing. It’s a good thing to consider whether you are dipping into clinical depression or just have a low moment.

Here are some things to check for if you think you might be headed toward a depressive episode:


Being aware of your thinking patterns can really help. If you are thinking more negatively than usual, you may just be having a rough day. But also take a look at how those thoughts are affecting your decisions, your outlook on things beyond that day. Are you more frustrated with things, or are you really beating yourself up?

Having trouble concentrating is another symptom of depression. Negative thoughts can lead to trouble making decisions, confusion or forgetfulness. Just a day or two of this doesn’t mean you necessarily have depression. But if your thoughts turn suicidal, seek help right away.


You can feel sad or down without having depression. But you do need to take note of how down you really get. Are you feeling mildly sad or let down, or are you feeling hopeless and helpless? Also, with depression you many feel a sense of being overwhelmed with emotion and have a negative or sad mood that others can sense.

Again, if someone notices you are down or crying, that doesn’t automatically mean you have depression. But if they notice this for several weeks, they may also have noticed other symptoms of an impending episode.

Physical Behaviors

Sleep disruption and appetite changes are hallmarks of depression. A night or two of disrupted sleep or eating isn’t necessarily a big deal. But if this continues and makes life even more difficult than it already is, you may need to talk to someone about what’s going on.

Try Something To Shake the Depressive Feeling

Do something about your mood to change it. Go for a walk, talk to a friend, make a decision to think differently for the rest of the day, watch a funny show. Do something that you think would likely help you break the monotony of your mood and thinking patterns. Sometimes, just getting distracted and out of your own head can change the course of your day. Sometimes just getting a good night of sleep can help clear the negative thoughts and give you fresh start.

All of these are things you have probably done at one time or another to give yourself a lift. If these work, chances are you have just had a down day or two. You are capable of bouncing back from a mildly low mood and going on with your life.

If, however, you find that these things don’t work and you continue to feel these symptoms for two weeks or longer, you may be heading into a depressive episode. You may need to take a wait-and-see approach before you can really know where it’s going.

Get Help Now If Things Seem Really Bad

But even if it only lasts for less than a day, if you have thoughts or feelings that truly disturb you, or you seem uncontrollably weepy, call a doctor or mental health counselor. If it is disrupting your daily life or you feel like you might hurt yourself, don’t wait for two weeks — get help now. Supportive friends and family also can help you through these low times. Whether you have a bout with depression or just a low day, a warm support network can help you snap back to your old self.

Is It Depression Or Just A Bad Mood?

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska. She blogs regularly on the Psych Central blog, Family Mental Health.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2018). Is It Depression Or Just A Bad Mood?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 13 Apr 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.