Holiday Blues: Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression Awareness
For most Americans, this is the season to be jolly. But
for many others, the season of red and green turns into the season of the blues.
"Holiday blues" is another term for the seasonal depression which affects many
people during the winter months when, as a result of the social, family and
financial pressures, they experience increased symptoms of depressed mood or
People who suffer from the holiday blues may find that participating
in normal holiday activities is extremely difficult. They may be unable to
enjoy parties, family and friends, food, and work or social gatherings. For
some people, the holiday blues only last during the winter season, but others
may have lingering depression. People who feel despair, agitation, hopelessness
or guilt for more than a month may be suffering from depression, a potentially
serious-but treatable-medical condition. Those who feel an intense form of
anxiety surrounding social situations year round, such as parties, friend and
work gatherings may unknowingly suffer from social anxiety disorder. They may
also not know that this too is a treatable condition.
The holiday blues may be common and mostly likely will subside
in the New Year. However, in those whose feelings of hopelessness or despair
persist, it may be an indication that a more serious, underlying condition exists.
The symptoms associated with these conditions can be worsened by the social
demands associated with the holidays, but may warrant effective treatment by
a physician, ideally a psychiatrist. Some people may unknowingly suffer from
major depressive disorder or depression, the most common psychiatric disorder
in the United States, affecting more than 19 million Americans each year. Common
symptoms include sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities.
While this may be sub-clinical or less apparent at other times of the year,
the additional pressures of the holiday season may make the diagnosis more readily
Other people may be experiencing the symptoms of social anxiety
disorder, the most common form of anxiety disorder, which affects more than
10 million Americans. People with social anxiety disorder have an intense
fear of being scrutinized by other people in social or performance situations
as well as being fearful of negative evaluation. Around the holidays, these
symptoms are exacerbated by the holiday cheer, parties, and increased gift-giving.
Even going to the mall to buy a gift can be a stressful and emotionally challenging
activity for someone with this condition.
Despite the millions of diagnosed depression and social anxiety
disorder sufferers who have been treated and received help, there are millions
more that remain undiagnosed and untreated. While suffering in silence, especially
during the holidays, many people with this condition attempt to dull their feelings
of despair by self-medicating with inappropriate drugs or alcohol and sometimes
even with both. This can lead to potentially disastrous consequences, both
for themselves, and others.
If you or someone you know is suffering from the holiday
blues, social anxiety, or depression, the best gift you can give them is the
encouragement and support to seek professional help.
For more information on depression and social anxiety disorder,
Created: 12/15/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.