When the colder weather sets in and the holidays roll around, many people experience a change in mood that can sometimes escalate to depression. This type of holiday depression, while common, can be caused by many different factors in an individual’s life. For some it may be one single, solitary issue causing the depression, but for others, it can be a combination of many things that they are struggling with. In this article, you'll learn the possible causes of holiday depression so you know what signs to look for if you think you may be suffering from this condition.
What Is Holiday Depression?
The winter season and the holidays are one time of the year when many people become especially vulnerable to depression. This is a condition that may affect a person only for the duration of the season, or it may simply be a trigger for depression that could extend beyond the winter or the holidays. In addition to or separate from this condition, some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a seasonal type of depression connected to changes in the weather. With both types of these conditions, symptoms like loss of energy, sluggishness, increased appetite, irritability and unhappiness are common symptoms.
Common Causes Of Holiday Depression
One of the challenges with holiday depression and seasonal affective disorder is that there are so many different possible causes. Among the many potential triggers for this condition are:
- Stress: The holidays, while a time for celebration, can be a huge source of stress for many people. One factor can be shopping for gifts, which takes up time, involves dealing with crowds and traffic, and the pressure of deciding what to get for your loved ones. Additionally, many people may experience anxiety about how much money they are spending. Stress can also stem from organizing family get-togethers, making sure holiday cards are sent out on time and dozens of other things that make holiday schedules packed to the brim.
- Fatigue: Along with packed holiday schedules comes exhaustion, which many people have to deal with during this season. Fatigue is a common contributing factor to holiday depression since it leads to a lack of exercise, not wanting to leave the house and may even lead to a weakened immune system.
- Family-Related Issues: Some people rarely see their families outside of the holidays, which may make this particular season a little more difficult to deal with than others. Spending time with parents, siblings and other relatives can cause tension in some families, and the anxiety of these get-togethers can also be a trigger for depression.
- Loneliness: While some are experiencing family issues, other people have trouble during the holidays for the opposite reason. Not being able to spend time with loved ones due to financial constraints, distance or other reasons can cause severe loneliness during the holidays. Also, those who have family members or friends who have passed away may miss them even more during special times like the holidays.
- Unrealistic Expectations: Some people get overly excited about the holidays, but when the reality of the events set in, they may find themselves disappointed with the actual outcome. Whether it’s holiday parties not being as much fun as hoped for, loved ones not getting as excited about their gifts as you’d hoped or other bad experiences, the sadness of a holiday season that doesn’t match up with an individual’s idea of what a picture-perfect holiday season should be like.
- Reduced Sunlight: The lack of sunlight during the winter months can be one of the triggers for seasonal affective disorder. In addition to affective chemical balances within the body, longer periods of darkness can also make a person less likely to want to go outside, exercise or spend time with others. Because of this symptom, special forms of light therapy have been developed to allow those with SAD to get the light exposure that they need.
If you think that you may be suffering from holiday depression or seasonal affective disorder, see a doctor or a therapist right away. There are several ways of dealing with or treating these conditions that can help you get through the winter and the holidays.