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Life can be rocky—and so can your feelings. Sometimes you may feel downbeat, anxious or fearful. In most cases, you probably endure these emotions, knowing they’ll soon pass. But how can you tell if your mood shifts are a normal response to what’s going on in your life, like financial or job stress, or signs of a clinical condition that warrants treatment? After all, it’s no secret that women are at least two times more likely to experience depression or anxiety than men.
“It’s normal to have some mood variation during the day,” says psychologist Carol Landau, Ph.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry and medicine at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University and author of The New Truth About Menopause. “Most people have good moods and bad moods and good days and bad days. While it’s one thing to feel sad or anxious for hours, maybe days, and connect it to a loss or stress in your life, it’s another to feel like you can’t pull yourself out of this.”.
The best way to think of mood and anxiety issues is on a continuum, looking at the frequency, severity and duration of your symptoms, says Landau. Part of making the judgment call between what’s normal and what’s not involves determining whether your emotional symptoms are interfering with your ability to function at work, at home or in life. Just as important, are your feelings impeding your ability to enjoy yourself?
You owe it to yourself to ask these questions, because if you do have a mood or anxiety disorder, the sooner you get treatment, the better you’ll feel and fare. Until you get help, these conditions can have potentially serious consequences for your physical and emotional health. Read on to get a pulse on what’s normal—and what’s not—in the way of emotional ups and downs.