Seasonal and Holiday Depression a Real Concern This Time of Year

Dec 24, 2013

This is often called “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for many it’s one of the toughest times of the year, thanks to depression. There are several types of depression, including major depressive disorder, or what is more commonly known as clinical depression.

“It’s a mood state that lasts for an extended period of time and to a degree of severity that really interferes with a person’s usual functioning,” said Edward Friedman, a psychiatrist with UPMC. “That’s kind of different from holiday blues or seasonal blues.”

The seasonal blues, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is usually triggered starting in the fall, when daylight decreases and temperatures drop. Holiday blues can be triggered by expectations of the holiday season.

“We all have high hopes for the holidays being perfect, a time for everything working out and everybody being happy,” Friedman said. “But most of us live in real-world families where there’s conflicts with certain people, you may not get along with this member of the family, or that, so there’s a lot of stress around the holidays.”

There are different ways to cope with and treat different types of depression. Friedman said a good starting point for anyone who thinks they might be depressed is talking to a doctor. There are also signs to be on the lookout for with others.

“What you want to look for is changes in their ability to do the things that they normally did and their ability to enjoy those things,” he said. “Someone who used to be very active, had lots of friends, very talkative, doing things, all of a sudden withdraws.”

Other signs include increased sleeping and an outward appearance of depression. More serious forms of depression can be treated through medication, therapy, light therapy and other means. There are also ways to combat mild depression or holiday blues – the top among them is to plan.

“A simple way to do it would be to start making up lists for all the tasks you have to do for the holiday and try to do them with an attitude of ‘I’m going to do this in a good-enough fashion,’ rather than perfect,” said Friedman. “Go through your lists and have things prepared ahead of time, try to schedule to reduce the stress and pressure of having to do everything at the last minute.”