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Depression and the Holidays

Lone Star Family Health Depression and the Holidays Dr. Simpson Profile

The holidays are meant to be a joyous, fun, and heartwarming time of the year. A time when we get together with loved ones. There are parties at work and with friends. Most stay home on Christmas Day, enjoying time with their family, a nice meal, and gifts. Some also spend time helping those in need, participating in the giving spirit of the season. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the happiness of the holidays. For some, it can be a time of sadness and depression. Are you depressed this holiday season? If so, you are not alone. There are many reasons why one might feel sad when nearing the holidays. For one, there are a lot of perceived obligations surrounding them: there are gifts to buy, trips to plan, decorations to set up. Expectations can be high creating a lot of pressure. Work is often more difficult as the year draws to a close. During the busyness, one might easily ask themselves, “When can I finally enjoy the holidays?” Meanwhile, others may be struggling to make ends meet and don’t get to enjoy the traditional comforts of the holidays at all.

Many people have complicated relationships with their family and friends. For some, family gatherings usually end in fights. Others may be isolated from their loved ones in some way – working, travelling, etc. There are those who are spending their first Christmas since the passing of a loved one. Finally, this season of warmth, affection, and togetherness may cause those left out to feel terribly lonely.

Physiologically speaking, we are also affected by the lack of sunlight. As the days grow shorter, we may find ourselves going to work before sunrise and leaving after sunset. This can alter our brain chemistry causing us to feel depressed. This can affect some more than others. In fact, there are people diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, meaning that they experience depression at the same time every year. Light therapy is a mainstay of treatment in this population, but antidepressants and psychotherapy can also be used if needed.

There are many reasons one might feel depressed during the holidays. The important thing is to know that seasonal depression affects many people, and you are not alone. As primary care doctors, we welcome you to come in and see us if you find yourself feeling down. We can help you find counselling, start helpful medications if needed, or connect you with other resources. Otherwise, consider talking to a trusted, non-judgmental friend or family member who can help you work through your emotions. If you feel you are at high risk for suicide, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, or go to your local emergency department. Don’t lose hope. Remember that this season of love belongs to you, too.

Simpson 3-3Dr. Simpson is a resident physician who sees patients of all ages and provides obstetrical services at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in Conroe, Spring, Willis, Grangerland, and Huntsville, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.