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Holidays not always cheerful for those battling holiday depression

Times-Tribune - 12/18/2017

Dec. 18--LONDON -- The holiday season is underway and as families gather to celebrate, it's important to remember it's not always the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. While depression can occur at any time, the holiday season particularly may bring on loneliness and a lack of fulfillment for some. During the month of December, Saint Joseph London, part of KentuckyOne Health, encourages people to learn more about holiday depression and how it might impact loved ones.

Those suffering from depression may experience feelings of sadness and emptiness that won't go away, extreme irritability, restlessness, thoughts of suicide and death, insomnia or sleeping too much, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in favorite activities, weight gain or weight loss.

"Depression may occur at any time of the year, but during the holiday season, it's often amplified," said Donnie Bunch, MD, KentuckyOne Health Primary Care Associates. "Many factors can increase a person's level of stress and anxiety during the holidays, including financial pressures, recent loss of a loved one or other major life changes, social isolation, excessive commitments and unrealistic expectations."

To help find relief from holiday-induced stress, it's important to set realistic goals and expectations during the holidays, share responsibilities with loved ones, reach out to friends and family, avoid excessive drinking and overeating, and talk to a therapist to help you identify your feelings and find solutions to overcome them.

Social isolation is often a major factor in depression around the holiday season. Some people may not have a large group of friends and family with whom to celebrate. As a result, they feel disconnected during the cheerful holiday months. To avoid increased social isolation, it's important to find support from family or friends, seek out social events, or talk to a physician or therapist about these feelings of isolation.

Others may be grieving the loss of a loved one during the holidays. Strategies to help lessen the risk of depression for those experiencing loss include acknowledging your feelings, finding a new holiday tradition away from home, volunteering time to help others, and spending time outdoors.

Depression this time of year may also be caused by another factor -- the loss of sunshine. Seasonal affective disorder, or (SAD), is a disorder that is caused by the reduced number of daylight hours during the winter months.

To treat SAD, your provider may recommend talk or light therapy, antidepressants or lifestyle changes.

"For those who suffer from depression this time of year, it's important to talk to a provider to determine its cause, whether it's the stress or loneliness of the holidays, or another external factor like the lack of sunshine," said Dr. Bunch. "Depending on the type and severity of the depression, it can be treated with medications, psychotherapy, brain stimulation techniques, lifestyle changes, or some combination of these. Reaching out for help is the key to feeling better."

Signs of depression should not be taken lightly. Contact Our Lady of Peace for an assessment by calling the Assessment and Referral Center at 859-313-3515. If you find yourself having suicidal thoughts, immediately dial 911, go to a hospital emergency room, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.


(c)2017 The Times-Tribune (Corbin, Ky.)

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