Blue Christmas: Recognizing Holiday Depression

By: Kari Huston
By: Kari Huston

Kate Simmons says the holidays always bring her down. “I was really depressed. Felt like I lost my whole entire life, but I knew that it would come back eventually,” Kate recalls.

Doctors admit the Thanksgiving to New Year's season can be the worst time of year for depression. “First of all it may remind them of some of the loses they've experienced,” explains Dr. Rob Riley of the Memorial Family Health Practice. “The other thing is, if you're feeling down already it may be hard to be around people who are in a happy upbeat, jolly mood all the time.”

Other factors are that from Thanksgiving to New Year's we experience the fewest number of daylight hours. For most individuals the activities of the holidays are piled on top of their other responsibilities. And death, separation, divorce, remarriage, and job-related stress cause feelings of dissonance with the traditional holiday-related values.

“Often times after the holidays people do experience the blues to the point that they are unable to function normally in their everyday lives,” says Jeffrey Feathergill Psy.D. of the Madison Center Depression Clinic. “At that point it's a good idea for them to get professional help to make sure they don't have a clinical depression.”

Signs of serious holiday depression last longer than two weeks. They include: changes in sleep or appetite habits, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, changes in motor activity, feelings of guilt, worthlessness or hopelessness, or thoughts of suicide or death.

In addition to counseling, the Madison Center Depression Clinic, offers cognitive behavioral therapy.

“Which is helping people with their thoughts, their thinking will help people work on their relationship and how they can improve those relationships.

Beat the winter blues by eating healthier, getting exercise, avoiding alcohol, setting realistic goals for yourself and staying in contact with friends and family.

Facing a New Year doesn't have to be daunting task if you do take one day at a time and do it with a healthy mind.


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