The holidays are often thought of as a time of joy—a time when people are at their happiest. But for some, this time of the year can actually bring more challenges. When you have holiday depression, this often ends up being the case. If you have holiday depression, you might want to know why this happens and, most importantly, what can be done about it.
Below, we will look at how the holidays can impact your mental health and make it harder for you to feel happy. We’ll also go through the symptoms of this type of depression so that you know what to look out for. Then, we’ll walk you through some treatment options so you can begin to feel the holiday cheer once again.
Why Does Holiday Depression Happen?
Holiday stress and depression are more common than you would think. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) proved this when they conducted a study on the relationship between the holidays and mental health symptoms. The results of this study showed that nearly half of those who have a mental illness feel that their symptoms get worse around this time of year.
But why exactly does holiday depression happen? There are a few different contributing factors. Five common reasons include:
1. Season Changes
Research indicates that the weather and the length of the days can contribute to someone’s overall mood. “Holiday depression” or “holiday blues” aren’t the official terms to describe the mental health disorder that worsens around this time of year. Rather, this is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression.
SAD is a condition that follows seasonal patterns. That is, it’s typically easier to manage mental health symptoms in the warmer, sunnier months and more challenging in the colder, darker months. The symptoms that people with SAD have are very similar to those that someone who has another depressive disorder might have. The major difference is that these symptoms tend to get a lot worse during the holidays.
2. Social Isolation
One of the biggest desires that people have during the holidays is to be around people that they love. However, there are a lot of reasons as to why this might not happen. Between troubling family dynamics, inability to travel, health concerns, financial strain, and more, people can sometimes end up alone. These feelings of loneliness can greatly contribute to holiday depression.
Furthermore, depression can often make people isolate themselves because they do not have the energy to socialize. People who are depressed might also feel that nobody wants to be around them. When this occurs, symptoms of feeling hopeless and alone only get worse.
3. Feeling Stuck in the Past
Similarly to the above point, when people are left feeling isolated and alone, they often end up stuck in memories of past times when they were happier. It’s natural to compare the past to the present and to reflect on all of the things that have changed in the meantime.
But studies show that feelings of nostalgia can actually trigger holiday depression and anxiety. Simply put, being stuck in the past prevents people from moving forward to new times of joy.
4. Financial Strain
There is an expectation around the holidays to buy and give gifts to others. So, for those who are struggling financially, the holidays only serve to remind them of what they cannot afford. This can contribute to more anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of frustration and anger, and holiday depression.
Though some people worry that they won’t be able to afford treatment on top of everything else for the holidays, many insurance companies will work with your treatment providers to get you the care you need.
5. More Pressure to Use Drugs or Alcohol
With the holidays come more opportunities and expectations to socialize. Whether people attend work parties or friend get-togethers, some feel that they must drink or use drugs in order to have a good time.
In addition, if someone is already working on their sobriety, being around others who are drinking and using makes it much more challenging to turn away the offer. In truth, drinking and using drugs only serves to make the symptoms of holiday depression (and other mental health challenges) worse.
What Are the Symptoms of Holiday Depression?
Holiday depression is more than just feeling down every so often. Other symptoms include:
- Loss of interest in activities
- Sleeping too often or not enough
- Feeling hopeless
- Changes in appetite
- Increase in drinking or drug use
- Social isolation
- Having suicidal thoughts
When these symptoms begin to interfere with somebody’s ability to work, have healthy relationships, or simply feel joy, they likely need to pursue treatment from mental health professionals. For this reason, it is crucial to know how to recognize the symptoms of depression. That way, you can seek out help before another holiday season goes by that you aren’t able to enjoy.
What Can Be Done for Holiday Depression?
Unfortunately, without the proper treatment, these holiday blues can carry through into the new year and beyond. Additionally, as stated above, holiday depression often follows a seasonal pattern. This means that, even if the symptoms ease temporarily, they are likely to return upon the next holiday season. In some cases, the symptoms not only return, but they get worse and harder to manage.
Therefore, it’s essential to get treatment for your mental health as soon as possible. With a mental health professional by your side, you will have the chance to build the skills necessary to manage the stressors and emotional triggers that occur during the holidays.
Mental health assistance for depression includes treatment options such as:
- Crisis evaluation
- Medication evaluation and management
- Group therapy
- Individualized counseling
- Family sessions
- Recreational therapy
- Discharge and aftercare planning
Getting mental health assistance now will help you to enjoy more holidays in the future. Reach out to a mental health treatment center near you to learn more about how to treat holiday depression. With the support of mental health professionals, holidays do not have to be a source of stress or hopelessness.
Treat Holiday Depression and More at The Willough at Naples
At the Willough at Naples, we serve patients who struggle with depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and many other mental health conditions. No matter what time of year it is, we work to offer the services described above and more. We also aim to provide a safe, supportive environment for those who need mental health assistance during the holiday season.
For more information on holiday depression or to get started on your path toward recovery, reach out to us at 800-722-0100. You can also submit a confidential contact form through our website. Give yourself the gift of happiness for future seasons to come by seeking mental health assistance now.