It’s that time of year again.
Multicolored lights twinkle across houses and front yards. Parents and squirming children form long lines to sit on a Santa look-alike’s lap. Red and green decorations adorn every store window. A constant sound of jingle bells and holiday tunes streams through the air.
The holiday season is just around the corner, and if you would rather deck the next guy you see in a red suit than deck the halls, you may be suffering from the holiday blues.
The Blues vs. Depression
The holiday blues, as the name implies, tend to be temporary and seasonal. They can affect both men and women, young and old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Holiday blues are more of a situational sadness, though physical symptoms may resemble those of clinical depression, says Michelle Pruett, MSW, of the National Mental Health Association in Alexandria, Va. These symptoms may include a general sense of sadness, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, withdrawal from activities you usually enjoy, and, in extreme cases, thoughts of suicide.
You also may feel hopeless, angry or overwhelmed, says Carol Goldberg, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Syosset, N.Y., and president of Getting Ahead Programs, which specializes in workshops for stress management and wellness.
Depression, on the other hand, lasts longer and may require treatment, Pruett says.
“If you see changes in your personality or if your sadness is affecting you physically for more than two weeks, then you might have a diagnosable depression,” Pruett said. At this point, you should seek the help of a mental health professional, she adds.
“It’s also quite possible that you feel bummed out just this holiday season. It really varies from person to person,” said Jane L. Cobb, LMSW-ACP, a therapist in Austin, Texas.