Do you find yourself wondering if you have depression at this time of year? Depression is one of the most serious mental illnesses that can happen to people at this time of year, and can be worsened by the belief that you ‘should’ be happy and cheerful because if it the holidays. If you are one of the people who have struggled with this idea, then this blog page is for you.
Depression and Holiday Blues are Both More Common Than You May Think
Depression and ‘Holiday Blues’ are both common and sometimes hard to distinguish between. It is very easy for a time of year when there can be so much outward expression of joy, that many people can inwardly feel very differently from this. It gets back to the idea that people are somehow ‘expected’ to be happy and joyous. This often creates the opposite effect in people.
How Depression and Holiday Blues Are Different
Since it is the holiday season, you may walk around feeling like ‘everybody else’ is happy and enjoying themselves. This is one of the things that can separate the ‘holiday blues’ from depression. You somehow feel like the odd one out; that everybody else is enjoying themselves and you’re not. Just to realize this is not the case can be freeing or liberating in a way. Not that it will take your blues away, but it will help to put them in context. Another definition from The Free Dictionary is ‘Feelings of sadness, loneliness, depression and anxiety in and around the holidays, caused by loss of family and loved ones through divorce or distance from the childhood home or place where the holidays were most enjoyed in years past.’ Depression, on the other hand, is a more serious affliction. Although it may start during the holidays, it won’t necessarily go away once the holidays are over. Some people actually can have ‘post-holiday depression,’ which may be triggered by a disappointing holiday season or a ‘let down’ from the holidays. In any case, depression has some serious symptoms to not be taken lightly.
Symptoms of Depression to Be Aware Of
Sleeping too much or sleeping too little
Thinking about suicide or wanting to die
Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
Lack of appetite or increase in appetite
Isolation from others
Difficulty concentrating or inability to concentrate
Lack of interest or pleasure
Feeling worthless or guilty for no reason
If you suffer from more than a few of these, especially if they persist for more than a week or two, you probably need help. Thoughts of suicide warrant immediate help and counseling by themselves, and certainly if they’re accompanied by others from the above list. Hopefully you can see the difference between holiday blues and depression from the above list. Depression is much more involved and far-reaching, although the holiday blues can feel like depression in the moment and can stem from some of the same causes.
How Counseling Can Help Both Holiday Blues and Depression
If you suffer from the holiday blues alone, you may not need counseling help. If you have anniversaries of unpleasant events that have happened at this time of year, as many people do; it can be helpful to get counseling help to keep your blues from becoming depression. At the very least, getting a ‘reality check’ that ‘it’s not just you’ can be helpful. If you are prone to isolation, and are ‘not a joiner’ as one of my former clients once shared, counseling can help you get out of isolation to help prevent depression from happening to you. Certainly if you have full-blown depression, you do need counseling help. I have spoken about this in one of my specialty pages on depression.
How I Can Help With Both Holiday Blues and Depression
I have worked with and helped well over 100 people who have struggled with holiday blues, depression, or both in my career as a social worker. I can assure you that others have dealt with these kinds of problems, too. You can overcome them with the right help, which I can provide or help direct you to in our work together. I encourage you to reach out and call or email me to find out how I can help you. I offer free 15-minute phone or 30-minute in person consults to help determine if I might be the right person to help you. You can go to my contact page or call me at 512-374-0100, but whatever you do please reach out to someone if you suffer from untreated depression.
About the author: Scott Kampschaefer, LCSW is a private practice therapist in Austin, Texas. He has an extensive background in working with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder at a clinic for older adults with these disorders in Austin. He now works with adults and adolescents of all ages in private practice.