Holidays can put some into depression

CONYERS -- Thanksgiving officially kicks off the holiday season -- highlighted for many with good food, good friends and family -- but for some it can bring all-time lows.

Those depressed feelings prevalent around this time of year are commonly referred to as the holiday blues, according to Rockdale County mental health professionals.

Roger Bolton, a local pastoral counselor, described the holiday blues as a mild depression typically caused by unfulfilled voids in people's lives.

"I think there are expectations that the holiday season is generally going to be good and enjoyable and people do not often find that, and they're disappointed that they don't find that," Bolton said.

That void could be from loss of a job, family, friends or just things once enjoyed.

"So it just depends on the circumstances in life, what kind of losses they've had ... some people have a lot more negatives than others," Bolton said.

And as the nation crawls out of its economic rut, the consequences that many individuals and families face -- lack of money to visit loved ones or buy gifts -- can take a toll on mental health.

"I think any time you have a recession or a depression ... more people are going to be affected because they're not going to be able to do some of the things they would like to do," Bolton said. "People have lost jobs, and they don't have the money to do things with. That's a negative in people's lives."

Even those without material losses may find themselves feeling depressed, said Bolton, and "it can last quite some time."

The holiday blues can continue through the middle of January in some cases, according to Conyers clinical psychologist Dr. Bob Jones.

Jones described the holiday blues as feelings of sadness, irritability and isolation that individuals experience more than normal.

About 10 to 15 percent of the population will experience some degree of those feelings, Jones estimated, with 3 to 5 percent having to seek help.

"It's not a huge number, but again, if you're the one that's in that percent then it's 100 percent," Jones said. "If you're the one that's experiencing it, then it's an issue."

Jones pointed to divorce, a death in the family and other major changes in family structure as causes for the depressed feelings common around this time of year.

"The pain that they feel is very well heightened when they see people with their family through the holiday," Jones said.

Holiday blues should also be put in proper context.

"In the case of someone who is grieving, it may well be normal," Jones said. "You want to develop an understanding of where they're coming from and you want to develop a way to deal with them in a healthy and productive manner."

Bolton suggested staying busy, maintaining good relationships, establishing new ones and "not thinking about the things that are too bad.

"If you sit home and mull over how bad life is, it's not good," Bolton said.

Bolton warned that holiday blues can deepen into major depression.

"If you do have family, make sure you're close to them," Jones said, adding that staying involved in the community can also be a big help. "And if any of those things are not helping, you might want to do something more."