Depression and the holidays

Society has an expectation that we should all be happy during the holiday season, but not all feel merry and bright.

Many have feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide that could be dealt with, over time, with the help of a trained professional. These feelings and thoughts, although personal, should not be interpreted as meaning a person is bad. These feelings and thoughts should not feel shameful; you may be having a rough day, but this is not the end.

There are two common experiences people have with feelings of self-harm. They feel disconnected or numb. “They don’t feel real and there is something about pain and blood that brings them into their bodies, “says Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery. It also hard to quantify behaviors related to depression and anxiety, because people often are deliberately keeping this secret to manage their identity including their digital identity, which can follow them for a long time. In addition, constant reminders of other’s happy holiday season can intensify our own lack of happiness and love.

The desire to rid oneself of these feelings and thoughts can be overwhelming without the aid of a trained professional’s guidance. Prevention and early intervention will be critical in minimizing the war within our own minds to deal with these issues.

You are not alone, Christmas and the New Year holiday are a time when hospitals and police forces report a high incidence of depression, suicides and attempted suicides. Psychiatrist, psychologist, and other mental health professionals also report a significant increase in patient’s complaints about depression during these holidays.

Here are some of the risk factors of holiday depression: setting up unrealistic expectations, trying to do too much, comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides, slacking on self-care, experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Physical sources of depression could be thyroid disease, poor sleep habits, smoking, poor diet, and certain medications.

Mental health professionals can assist in recommending both prescription and non-prescription therapy plans. Some of the non-prescription recommendations may include;

Exercise, this is a natural approach to treating depression that may lift mood but often the last thing a person with depression wants to do, though it may have a striking effect.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, which focuses on changing negative thought patterns through talk therapy.

Behavioral-Activation Therapy, which helps clients to bring them back to activities that add meaning to their lives.

Mindfulness Training, individuals are trained to be aware of the present moment through practices such as yoga and daily meditation.

Symptoms of depression, which may need treatment include;

Sleep disturbance, one of the most common symptoms

Insomnia, coincides with the onset of depression

Despondency, several consecutive days of sadness is typical

Increasing irritability

Difficulty making decisions

Inability to initiate action

Anorexia and weight loss.

Internal trembling, felt by the individual, but invisible to the doctor.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health concern, call Life and Purpose Behavioral Health at 740-376-0930. For a list of mental health resources in our area, go to the Washington County Family & Children First Council website,, and click on “Resources” on the top of the home page. Mental health service providers offer confidential, effective-evidence based and medication-assisted treatment. Other resources are available by going to the website for Washington County Behavioral Board,, or calling the Washington County Behavioral Health Board at 1-740-374-6900.

Miriam R. Keith is Consumer Support Coordinator,

Washington County Behavioral Health Board