Do you get more depressed at Christmas?

Christmas is the time of the year you might usually associate with joy and celebration but according to Erik Nelson, a psychiatrist at the University of Cincinnati, Christmas is the time of the year when we get most depressed. 

“It’s the time when the days are shorter and the absence of light in the late afternoon affects a lot of people,” Nelson goes on to say. “In addition, in some subjects the painful memories related to the loss of loved ones or a stressful childhood are sharpened.”

Some symptoms of the winter blues may include sleeping too much, as well as experiencing changes in appetite and weight, difficulty concentrating and loss of interest in activities that used to be fun, according to Nelson. Spending more time outdoors and exercising can help alleviate it. 

During the holidays, the number of activities, tasks and social events that need to manage increases and this can be one of the main indicators that a person's stressors have increased further leading to depression.

Buying gifts can cause financial and emotional stress and can create the need to cope with crowds, traffic and shopping malls or large stores. Family, school, neighbourhood, and work celebrations and parties create social, time, and energy demands. Traveling to be with family or friends on vacation can cause a variety of additional stresses. Not being able to be with family or friends (for whatever reason) can also be very stressful. School, work, and sleep schedules are often disrupted during vacations, and healthy ways to manage stress, such as ensuring good nutrition and daily exercise, are often disrupted as well.

Family problems

Holidays are synonymous with family, so any problems we have with the family will come to the fore during this time. If there is loss, dysfunction, addiction, abuse, disconnection, separation, estrangement or divorce, then there is the possibility of having to control the emotions related to these problems. 

Although vacations can be a time of celebration and a time to return to faith or values, all the growing demands for time, energy, patience, and flexibility can take their toll.

When one of the holiday expectations is to be "happy," there is a 100% chance of failure for the person with depression. A common symptom of depression is anhedonia, or the loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed or the inability to experience pleasure.

Because of increased stressful demands, inability to avoid family problems, and difficulty managing expectations, vacations can leave a person suffering from depression with greater feelings of sadness, guilt, alienation, and indignity.

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