My Christmas Tree is Down and So Am I…

My Christmas Tree is Down and So Am I…

This realization often leads to increases in depression and can also lead to thoughts of suicide. In fact, suicide rates often spike dramatically after the holidays.

What If a Loved One Is Perhaps Suffering From Post-Holiday Depression?

One of the most common thoughts regarding depression is that symptoms of this disorder increase during the holidays. Many argue that this is because individuals suffering from depression are more likely to feel “down” when their holiday events do not compare with those of others around them. Often, the people who come to mind are those isolated individuals who have little money and few friends with whom to celebrate. 

Actuality, the holidays often function as a buffer for most individuals. They often serve to provide a sense of hopefulness and belonging. This sense of connectedness often makes it easier for depressed individuals to function during the holidays with fewer symptoms. In fact, rates of depression and completed suicides are actually lower during the holiday season.

It is not until after the holidays that those with depression find themselves having increased symptoms.  Loneliness and despair become more common. It is during this time that the hopefulness associated with the holidays begins to wane. Individuals suffering from depression realize that their lives are the same as they were before the holidays, and that the hopefulness they felt was only temporary.

This realization often leads to increases in depression and can also lead to thoughts of suicide. In fact, suicide rates often spike dramatically after the holidays. 

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is often the result of a complex interplay between brain chemistry, environmental stressors and psychological factors. Symptoms of depression may include a persistent sad mood, loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities, a change in sleeping and/or eating patterns, irritability, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, excessive guilt, a sense of hopelessness, difficulty concentrating and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

Research indicates that individuals suffering from depression show the most improvement when they receive a combination of antidepressant medication plus psychotherapy (also called “Talk Therapy”).


The effectiveness of the numerous anti-depressant medications available today is well documented. Having said this, unless a persistent or dire condition exists, medication need not be the first line of treatment.

A thorough psychological assessment by a qualified mental health professional to help determine the underpinnings of an individual’s depression is an appropriate place to begin. Once this has been conducted, medication should be considered as only one possible component of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Talk Therapy

There are numerous talk therapy approaches available. These treatment techniques are documented to be effective in eighty percent of cases (NIMH).

  • Insight-oriented treatments, designed to explore past psychological hurt often prove eye opening, liberating, and important to the resolution of depressive feelings.
  • Behavioral techniques, designed not to revisit the past but to remain focused in the present, can help identify and modify current negative thought patterns that give generate depressive feelings prevent them from ending.
  • Personal therapy can help relieve depression by helping clients work through relationship issues that often contribute to depression.
  • Identification and expression of anger is often a key component of treating depression. Unexpressed anger may linger and haunt people in the form of low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness and irritability.

Many therapists use a multidimensional approach to combat depression, drawing from these and other methods.

Depression is a highly treatable disease that warrants professional intervention.

Don’t isolate yourself, disregard how you’re feeling or blame yourself. Reach out to whomever you feel most comfortable with, whether it is a friend, family member or professional. If you are feeling suicidal, go to or call your nearest emergency room immediately. There is nothing to be ashamed of – and everything to gain!


What If a Loved One Is Perhaps Suffering From Post-Holiday Depression?

Talk to them about concerns. Offering support and a sympathetic ear works wonders. Be prepared to hear difficult answers, though. An honest response to inquiries could lead to a frank discussion about a very serious condition. Know local resources beforehand, and don’t be afraid to suggest getting help from a trained professional. Today, physicians view depression as a medical condition that is treatable; usually this treatment involves a combination of individual counseling and medication. Whatever approach is taken, be aware that ignoring depression only communicates an uncaring attitude.

Symptoms Associated With Depression

Professionals consider the following symptoms to be associated with depression: 

  • Appetite and/or weight changes (either loss or gain) 
  • Chronic aches and pains that are not explained by a physical condition 
  • Decreased energy, or a general sense of fatigue 
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions 
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and worthlessness 
  • Loss of sexual desire 
  • Irritability and/or excessive crying 
  • Loss of interest in activities 
  • Sadness, anxiety, or feelings of emptiness 
  • Sleep disturbances

If there is concern that a loved one may be suicidal, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be of assistance. This hotline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis. If you or a loved one needs help, please dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The call will be routed to the nearest crisis center in your area. With crisis centers across the country, the Lifeline’s mission is to provide immediate help to anyone needing mental health services. All calls are free and confidential. The Lifeline can also provide information for loved ones concerned about family members.

Remember that when the holiday parties are over, those suffering from depression are only just beginning to realize that their lives have not miraculously improved or suddenly improved. This time of the year can be the most difficult for many and help can be invaluable


Clinical depression is a condition that affects one’s thoughts, moods, feelings, behavior and physical health. We now know that depression is not a weakness but a medical condition with a biological or chemical basis.

Depression is more common in women (one in six will seek help for depression at some time in their lives) than in men (one in nine) and is four times more likely to affect the elderly than the young.

Is depression “triggered” by life events?
Although depression can be exacerbated by holiday stress, it is also important to remember that depression can be triggered by certain illnesses, hormonal disorders/imbalances such as those caused by birth control pills and by hormone replacement therapy, disturbing and/or traumatic events or changes in life, tension or stress, chemical imbalances in the brain, thyroid disorders, poor diet and lack of exercise, allergies, and premenstrual and postpartum chemical shifts.

Other times depression seems to occur spontaneously, with no identifiable specific cause. Whatever the cause, depression is much more than grieving or a bout of the blues.

Depression may occur only once in a person’s life. Often however, it occurs as repeated episodes over a lifetime with periods free of depression in between. It may also be a chronic condition requiring ongoing treatment over a lifetime. In the United States, depression affects more than 18 million people of all ages and races.

Can depression be treated successfully?
Psychotherapy alone or often in combination with medication has proven successful in treating depression. The medications available are generally safe, have few side effects and are effective, even for the most severe depression. With proper treatment, most people with serious depression improve, often within weeks, and can return to normal daily activities.

How does one know if someone is really depressed, not just feeling sad or gloomy?
Depression is not the same as being sad or discouraged. These feelings are a normal part of life and usually pass. True depression is severe sadness and hopelessness that does not go away over time and makes normal activities impossible. The American Psychiatric Association bases its definition of clinical depression or major depression on the following eight primary criteria:

 If you as an individual want to help someone through the winter blues, general thoughtfulness is wonderful.  You might: Reach out, genuinely. If you see someone you know looking atypically glum or gloomy, pause, smile and begin a conversation. A complement can go a long way toward lifting someone’s spirits. You will know pretty quickly if the person would rather not engage in conversation. Call.
People in the doldrums often avoid social events and contact—the very thing that might improve their outlook. If someone you are accustomed to seeing frequently at meetings and services is suddenly among the missing, call and let him/her know that she/he is missed. When you call, begin with an open-ended non-questioning statement like, “I was thinking about you.” or “You have been on my mind.” or “We have been missing you at ______ .”
If you are uncomfortable or hesitate to call, send a note or small gift.

It is particularly important to visit people who may be limited in their ability to drive or travel to social events. Remember that holidays tend to be a time when many people visit. The times in between holidays are not nearly so full of cheery visitors. Isolation can be a major causal factor in depression. Remember that those who are family caregivers are often limited by their responsibilities and cannot participate in church and social events. Many caregivers become depressed as they deal with isolation, grief and guilt.

If you are planning to visit someone who is in a hospital or other health care facility, be certain you know and follow the new privacy regulations.
Visitors are not given free access as they once were. Please remember that it is not advisable to visit someone if you are ill or might be “coming down” with something. Focus on food. Taking a dish (healthily prepared, of course), offering to pick up groceries, setting up a lunch or dinner can be thoughtful ways to show a person that he or she is important. Invite. Extending an invitation to attend an activity, view a movie or participate in an event at your church is another way to help draw people out of the blahs and blues.
Offer to drive if they are not comfortable driving at night or in bad weather. Arrange a walk or other exercise session to help motivate someone who might benefit from the fresh air and sunlight. [Remember that wheelchair users also like to take walks.] As you decide to be helpful, keep in mind that there are differences between people and in being supportive.

One must use an approach in keeping with the style of the person you are trying to reach. Sometimes the difference between helpfulness and nagging is only in the eyes of the beholder. The diagnosis of depression carries the stigma unfortunately still attached to any form of mental illness. This stigma can make it difficult to ask for help. It can also cause discomfort on the part of anyone who is trying to be supportive. The more awareness we have, the easier it will be to both ask for and give support. IMPORTANT

NOTE: This article is not written as a diagnostic tool.

While it outlines indicators for depression, it should not replace the evaluation and therapeutic intervention of a trained health professional. If a person you know appears to be mildly depressed, encourage and support them in getting help.
If someone appears severely depressed, immediately let someone in a position to make care decisions know what you have observed! A person who is severely depressed often markedly changes his or her behavior .
Someone might:
stop taking showers or baths or wearing make-up not change clothing or get dressed without prodding miss work or school no longer appear to take responsibility for family and children articulate suicidal thoughts or a preoccupation with death purchase a deadly weapon refuse to make plans for the future indicate that he/she might not be “around” much longer begin giving away personal belongings because he/she no longer needs them If someone shares suicidal thoughts or life threatening information never, never, never promise confidentiality. If there are no care decision makers available and you feel the person is in imminent danger, contact his or her therapist (if one is being seen) or get him/her to an emergency room. It is always better to err on the side of the living!

Copyright PC(U.S.A.)

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