Common Triggers for Holiday Depression and Sadness

The holidays can be a joyful time, but for many, this time of year triggers feelings of sadness and depression. Typically, depression is caused by some combination of environmental, biological, genetic, and psychological factors. But during the holiday season, a number of common triggers come into play. Around this time of year, many people also experience something called the “winter blues.” This isn’t a formal medical diagnosis but instead relates to feelings of sadness brought about by a number of common sources. Triggers for the winter blues and holiday season-related depression include:

  • Stress brought about by preparing for the holidays.
  • High or unmet expectations.
  • Self-reflection.
  • Thoughts of lost or absent loved ones.
  • Money and a focus on gifts.
  • Parties, activities, and other social commitments.
  • Comparing oneself with others.
  • Feelings of not having or providing enough.
  • Increased alcohol consumption.
  • Loneliness.
  • Mood disorders.
  • Recent life changes.
  • Recent trauma.
  • A concurrent illness.
  • Having a sick family member or loved one.

Meanwhile, some people experience a different form of depression at this time of year brought about by seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Common in the fall and winter months when light levels are low, SAD is a type of depression related to seasonal changes that is known to leave people feeling depressed, agitated, hopeless, and worthless, often with low energy, changes in sleep, and weight gain. Many times, the symptoms will start out mild and strengthen as the seasons progress, before dissipating with the arrival of longer days in the spring and summer.

One of the biggest triggers for SAD is the short amounts of daylight that come along with the winter months in northern regions. It is believed that these shorter days disrupt a person’s circadian rhythm (the body’s 24-hour internal clock), which tends to be influenced by darkness and light. For some, altering the circadian rhythm can lead to SAD.

Fortunately, there is a fairly effective way to both treat and prevent SAD: light therapy. This treatment provides an artificial substitute for the daylight that tends to be scarce in the winter. For light therapy, people with SAD will frequently spend 30 minutes or more each morning in front of a light box that emits intense bright light.

Feeling better
If you’re feeling depressed around the holidays, one (or a combination) of the following treatments may alleviate your symptoms and help you feel better:

  • Counseling and psychotherapy
  • A strong support network, whether it’s family, friends, or a support group.
  • TMS therapy
  • Medication
  • Light exposure (for SAD)

To schedule a consultation for using TMS to treat seasonal depression, call 888.823.4867 or book an appointment online here. TMS Neuro Institute is one of the earliest adopters of transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat depression in Los Angeles.