The Holidays Bringing Depression?!


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I am always so happy around the holidays.  December is such an exciting month- all of the holiday spirit and decorations are the best!  At first I was wondering if the holiday season actually makes people happier, but when I began to research I stumbled upon something more interesting that I hadn't even thought about.  Apparently, the holiday season makes some people DEPRESSED.  At first I couldn't imagine how this could be true!  But, after reading the article I came across and a few more, I understood.  If a person is already depressed, the holiday season can make it worse.  They don't understand the jolliness it is suppose to bring because they aren't at peace/happy with themselves.  Also, seeing everyone else around them so happy makes them even sadder because it is a reminder that they are unhappy.  Even people that aren't usually depressed might become depressed during the holiday season.  This seems even crazier to me!  Past experience is one reason for this.  People who have had bad experiences, for example if they have lost loved ones, may become depressed during the holidays because they find it hard to celebrate and be happy without these people.  The holidays remind them of their loss.  People who don't deal with stress well also are at higher risk for depression because the holidays bring on TONS of stress, especially if they have children.  Decorating, shopping, family parties, and all of the other responsibilities the holidays bring can add a lot of stress to peoples' lives.  Besides from easily becoming stressed out, I wonder if there is a similar trait or quality people posses that make certain people depressed during the holidays?   Can you guys think of anything?  Something that came to my mind was seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  This is a type of depression that affects someone during the same season every year.  SAD is caused by lack of sunlight, which happens mostly during the winter.  It causes problems with serotonin.  This is a brain chemical that affects mood.  So, maybe the people who get depressed during the holiday season really just have SAD.  Just a thought!  What do you guys think about this?

 

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6 Comments

Apparently, this holiday depression is a more serious problem than I ever realized before. The Mayo Clinic actually has an entire portion of their website dedicated to this problem. According to the clinic's staff, holiday depression is often caused by the demands that we don't normally even think about. With the holiday season, we are confronted with house guests, parties, cooking, and of course the financial burden of buying gifts for the entire family. The stress that results from having to meet these demands have led many to face the holiday blues. To minimize the stress that could eventually result in depression, the Mayo Clinic suggests acknowledging your feelings rather than suppressing them, confronting problems with relatives, and sticking to a close budget. Most importantly, the importance of enjoying the holiday rather than allowing it to become a burden is stressed. I knew some people were simply miserable during the holidays, but I never knew that the problem could be so serious that there are actually preventative steps to take.

Here is a link to the Mayo Clinic site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress/MH00030

Depression is all around, all around the year. It affects different people at different times according to their life situation. But the holiday season brings it out in a lot more people because there is this PRESSURE to be happy! This may sound weird to some people but I certainly believe there is a real pressure to be happy in the holiday season. An already depressed individual can feel worse if they don't have a family or close friends. Maybe there exists unrealistic expectations in our heads for what the perfect family Christmas looks like and some individuals feel like their lives aren't good enough and they can't experience a proper Christmas like they see on T.V. or other people having.

I completely agree with this post. It is understandable why people get depressed around the holidays because they probably feel like they have nothing/know one to be happy about or thankful for. Especially times like thanksgiving, which is all about family and spending time with the ones you love and who care about you in return. The holidays are very special and personal, and is meant to bring out the best in people, but coincidentally can also bring out the worst. I agree with you when you said it is a reminder of how lonely and unhappy they are. Seeing everyone else in such a joyous mood makes you feel like you're missing out, and therefore triggers sadness.

Like you, I also thought of Seasonal affective disorder as a reason for this increased depression around the holidays. If you look at the symptoms of SAD, many of them could be made worse thanks to the holiday season. I think it's important to note that SAD is more common in women than men as well. Symptoms include: increased appetite, social withdrawal and loss of interest in activities. For a time of year when there are Christmas parties to attend, rich foods to eat and plenty of merriment and things to do, I feel as though the affects of SAD could worsen the holiday depression. However, it is also possible that reverse causation is to blame. After all, SAD "is a kind of depression that occurs at a certain time of the year, usually in the winter". It's also possible that the presence of holiday depression acts as a catalyst for SAD.

As much as I agree that the holidays are always such a happy time, it's easy to see why research shows that they actually can cause depression. There are so many examples as to why this could be. Rarely, whether it be through the media, decoration, or general atmosphere of a community, are the holidays displayed in a bleak, non-cheerful manner. Santa and his elves have smiles on their faces as they deliver gifts to beaming children on Christmas Day in nearly half of the advertisements you'll see this December. But think about the children who won't be getting any gifts this Christmas because their parents are out of work...you think they love those commercials? How about the happy couple kissing under mistletoe? All the singles HATE that, and I know because I've heard it said on too many occasions. Where some people love the winter weather, others despise it. There are just too many situations in which a person could actually end up pissed about the holidays than happy. Hopefully, because it is such a great time of year, we are able to find a healthy mix that keeps us content during "the most wonderful time of the year."

This post was somewhat of a surprise to me at first, but when I really think about it, it makes perfect sense. On Valentine's Day for example, it's known that many single people wear black to protest. As my cousin used to say before she was engaged, "Valentine's Day; The Loneliest Day of the Year." To me, Christmas and other holidays represent loneliness to some people. When you're little you love Christmas because of the gifts. But when you're older, you love Christmas because of the people you're surrounded by and the part of your family you rarely see. So if you're a mature adult, with no expectations of Santa coming down your chimney, and nobody important to buy presents, what exactly is there to feel excited about?

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