Depression is a horrific disease with unforgiving effects of the family and friends of those who suffer, often in silence.
The holidays are landmines of depression triggers from the pressure of gift-giving and making nice with people you would rather avoid.
More people die during the holidays—Christmas, the day after Christmas and New Year’s Day, specifically—than any other time of year, so most people have the pain of loss layered atop the usually holiday strain. Most of us are missing someone, something, or feeling inadequate for some reason.
Many people hold on just hoping to have survived another holiday, once they are over. Turns out the Monday after the holidays may be quite dangerous. The letdown of unfulfilled holiday dreams, the bitter winter cold, the still short days, and the reality of having to return to work can trigger depression.
“All these factors will have a cumulative effect,” Halaris said. “We could see an [increase] in depression this coming week and for the rest of the month,” according to Loyola University Medical Center psychiatrist and depression specialist, Dr. Angelos Halaris, who specializes in
The absence of warmth and sunshine puts the vulnerable at even more risk for a particular depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A term coined by NIH scientist and psychiatrist, Norman Rosenthal, who has written extensively on the topic for general audiences and pioneered the use of light therapy.
For many people, the holidays are a time of too much eating and drinking, combined with family stresses and relationship issues. They begin the new year mentally and physically exhausted.
For people affected by seasonal affective disorder, energy and mood take a nosedive during the short days of winter. “SAD is characterized by depression, exhaustion and lack of interest in people and regular activities,” Halaris said. “It interferes with a person’s outlook on life and ability to function properly.”
SAD is related to a chemical imbalance in the brain, brought on by lack of light due to winter’s shorter days and typically overcast skies.
“With less exposure to light in the winter months, many people become depressed,” Halaris said. “Those susceptible to SAD are affected even more so.”
No surprise that those who can head for the sun and sand during the holidays. Bright light affects brain chemistry in a helpful way and acts as an antidepressant.
If your holiday required a staycation not a suncation, there are things you can do. Although it may be cold where you are, get outside during the day, even if it is a little cloudy outside. When inside, open the drapes and blinds to let in natural light. SAD can be effectively treated with light therapy, antidepressant medication and/or psychotherapy.
No one needs to suffer in silence from any type of depression. Depression is easily diagnosed and effectively treated. From medication to talk therapy, help is readily available. There is no shame in seeking treatment for a mood disorder. The shame is in not seeking the treatment that will definitely make you feel better.
Watch out on Monday and take care of yourself all year. Get started now to fortify yourself for this amazing new calendar year.