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UC Davis Medical Center

UC Davis Medical Center

Holiday blues -- or depressive disorder?

Depression is the world’s most common mental ailment, affecting approximately 16 percent of adults at some point in their lives. Stress-related events such as the holidays may trigger half of all depressive episodes.

Comparing the holiday blues to a depressive disorder is like comparing a cold to pneumonia.

Major depression can destroy joy for living and make it impossible to focus on work and responsibilities. Individuals may experience hopelessness and depressive symptoms such as sadness and tearfulness throughout the day. Thoughts of death or suicide may enter their minds.

Depression is the world’s most common mental ailment, affecting approximately 16 percent of adults at some point in their lives. Stress-related events such as the holidays may trigger half of all depressive episodes, Hales said.

There are various forms of anxiety. About 10 million adults in the United States suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder, which is an excessive or unrealistic apprehension that causes physical symptoms and last for six months or longer.

Since the holidays may be a period where people experience increased depression or anxiety symptoms, it is important to recognize the signs of major depression.

If during the holidays you experience many of the below symptoms to such severity that they interfere with your normal relationships, it is important to seek help from your primary care physician:

  • feeling depressed, sad and discouraged
  • loss of interest in once-pleasurable and enjoyable activities
  • eating more or less than usual, or gaining or losing weight
  • having trouble sleeping, or sleeping more than usual
  • feeling slow or restless
  • lack of energy
  • feeling hopeless, helpless, or inadequate
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty thinking clearly or making decisions
  • persistent thoughts of death or suicide
  • withdrawal from others and lack of interest in sex
  • various physical symptoms.

Antidepressants help about 70 percent of individuals who may have a depressive episode.