We all know the story of the Grinch. Dr. Seuss’s meanest, greenest villain absolutely loathes Christmas, much to the consternation of the nearby Who’s of Whoville. There, the townsfolk celebrate with huge parties full of food, drinks and presents much like we do. They don’t understand how the Grinch, or anyone for that matter, could resist the spirit of the season.
While the Grinch’s holiday hate is caused by a heart that’s “two sizes too small”, plenty of otherwise healthy human beings also experience increased emotional distress this time of year, despite the expectation that we should be feeling extra joyful. Seasonal depression – a type of depression that coincides with the colder, darker months of winter – is often felt most intensely around the holidays. Whether brought on by stress, anxiety, fear or loneliness it is a very serious disorder, and not one that can be cured by a bit of Christmas cheer.
For those that struggle with seasonal depression, taking part in celebrations and participating in other traditions like gift shopping or cookie baking can amplify negative emotions, as the stark contrast between their symptoms and the “normal” feelings associated with the holidays can be too much to bear. It’s important to remember that if a friend or family member withdraws from the festivities, we shouldn’t assume he or she is just a Grinch or Scrooge who needs a supernatural attitude adjustment.
If you notice your loved one displaying any of the behaviors, you may wish to start a conversation about their risk of developing holiday-related seasonal depression. We can’t diagnose anyone without the help of a mental healthcare professional, but we can start a dialogue that makes a difference in leading them to seek help. Several treatment options, including psychotherapy, behavioral adjustments and even the relatively newer light therapy have all been proven to generate results.
Signs of Seasonal Depression
- Lack of Interest
Affected individuals may lose interest in typically enjoyable activities, including holiday traditions and celebrations.
- Increased Anxiety
They may frequently worry about holiday plans, spending too much money or running out of time to prepare for the holidays, much more intensely than the average person.
- Mood Changes
Drastic, frequent mood changes, or displaying different personality traits than they do at other times of the year, are common symptoms.
- Social Withdrawal
Withdrawing form social situations is incredibly common, as well are increased feelings of isolation and loneliness. Sufferers may lash out, particularly when friends or family are discussing holiday plans.
Who’s at risk?
Anyone who struggles with general depression or anxiety has a greater chance of developing seasonal depression around the holidays. Other risk factors include the recent loss of a loved one, health problems, money problems and other major life-changing events.
About Lehigh Center
The Lehigh Center is the largest independently run research facility in the Lehigh Valley. Our qualified physicians conduct clinical trials to evaluate investigational treatments for specific diseases, including depression. If you are interested in leaning more about our current studies, please click the link below.