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The Holiday Blues

Most Americans are now wrapping up the season to be jolly.† But for many others, the season of red and green quickly turned 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 anxiety.† For some, the holiday blues resolve as quickly as the holidays end; for others, the symptoms linger as long as the cold winter nights.†

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.† 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 most likely will subside with 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 apparent.†

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.†

Created: 1/2/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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