Blue Christmas is an Annual Reality for Some

Written by yvonnethornton on December 20th, 2012

Unfortunately, Elvis isn’t the only one who has experienced a “Blue Christmas.”  Depression during the holiday season is actually very common.  Although people can be depressed any time of year, we are often more aware of it during the holidays, because the festive season causes us to notice how non-festive our lives are.

Most of us would love for our holidays to be filled with joy, but making it happen can be stressful in itself.  There are so many factors to consider this time of year that it can be difficult to pin down the actual cause of someone’s holiday blues.  Depression can stem from financial constraints, stress from over-scheduling, frustration due to the inability to spend time with family, or, conversely, anxiety due to spending too much time with family.  High expectations and fatigue can also greatly contribute to holiday depression.  With all of the tasks that need to be accomplished before our dinners, present-openings, and get-togethers, stress can be at an all-time high.  On the other hand, for those who are removed from family and friends either due to distance or death, this time of year can be particularly lonely.  For still others, the time after Christmas is the most depressing, because of the letdown after all of the excitement and activities.  The most common cause of depression during the winter though, is Seasonal Affective Disorder, known appropriately as SAD.  As you probably already know, SAD is caused by the limited amount of sunlight the body receives during these short days.  Feeling sad isn’t the only symptom of depression either.  This emotional disturbance can cause severe anxiety, overeating or loss of appetite, insomnia or excessive sleeping, and in some, even physical pain.  How depression manifests itself varies by the individual.

Luckily, depression during the holidays is normally temporary.  However, if your depression lasts for several weeks or longer, it could be considered clinical depression.  In which case, you should visit your physician to discuss treatment.  There are a variety of treatments, and the one your doctor chooses for you will depend on the cause of your depression.  For instance, for SAD, light therapy can be very effective.  For more severe forms of depression, such as PTSD, long-term therapy from a qualified counselor may be needed.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.




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