By Saul Levine, MD








Feeling Down




Most people go through some periods of self-questioning and sadness.  It is not that we are meant to suffer as part of the “the human condition,” but life at times presents dilemmas that challenge us and affect our minds and moods.  The stress of coping with our frenetic schedules can sometimes feel unrelenting for a while.  In every lifetime, there are serious problems in ourselves or loved ones which confront us, and if unrelieved, get the better of us, bringing us further down in our mood states.  At other times our melancholy might be due to brain chemical imbalances, or hormonal changes, illness and



We all at times have private concerns about ourselves and our families.  In periods of sadness or despair, we might find ourselves lying in bed, wide-awake at night or in the cold gray of dawn.  When we’re under severe stress and in a sad or anxious mood, we tend to worry and ruminate, we review our past and present, sometimes extra critically, and we try to contemplate our futures.


We usually get through and overcome, but sometimes we enter periods of despair, when we might think we are “losers”, an unfortunate expression (captured by The Beatles’ song, “I’m a loser; I’m not what I appear to be”).  In the worst of these moments, we fear failure, or that our fragile house of cards we’ve spent a lifetime creating will come crashing down.  A related fear is that our inadequacies will finally be publicly exposed, followed by our utter humiliation.  “They” will see our frailties, and we will then be like “The Emperor who has no clothes”.


These “fleeting fantasies of failure” are not unusual when people are in particularly difficult times, but they usually disappear as we venture forth into the day, and resume our relationships and activities.  When we habit our “House of Blues” it is often our friends and family we turn to, and who give us solace and nurturance.  But if these sad and absorbing thoughts and feelings persist or worsen, and they begin to impair our friendships and functioning, they could be signs of a serious depression.  It is then that we need to muster the energy, often with the help of others, and consult with our physicians or a mental health professional.


It is important to realize that “down moods” are very common, and that these psychological clouds usually lift with time and with the help of those we are close to.  But there is no shame in asking for professional help if we are feeling helpless and hopeless.


Mood disorders are common, and if severe, they should be evaluated and treated.  The good news is that various psychotherapies and medications are highly effective in speeding up the process of feeling “ourselves” again.


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