By Dr. David Woo - December 23, 2022
Christmas can be a trying time for many of us, despite its typical association with togetherness and joy—in fact, those very expectations can just add to the pressure on our mental health. Depending on our circumstances, the holiday period can affect our mental health in different ways. Studies show that while there is a decline in many psychopathological phenomena during Christmas, this does not apply to mood disorders such as depression, which have a tendency to worsen.(1) Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, the trappings of the holiday are all around us, with family, professional, and social gatherings potentially bringing us closer to stressors or making us feel more alone.
Factors that can negatively affect your mood during the Christmas period can include, but are not limited to:
- Feelings of loneliness or exclusion if everyone else seems happy when you’re not
- Looking forward to Christmas and enjoying the stimulation, but finding it difficult to cope when it’s over
- Overwhelming pressure to live up to the ideal of a ‘perfect’ Christmas and act happy for others when you don’t feel that way, or worry that something will ‘ruin’ it
- Conflict with others about what Christmas should be or mean
- Guilt over not appreciating Christmas the same way as other people seem to be
- Feeling unable to avoid difficult family situations
- Stress or shame over financial difficulty and pressure to spend
- Exposure to alcohol or other addictive substances during holiday parties
- Grief over the bereavement of friends and family that you used to see at Christmas
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can cause depressive moods associated with the gloomy winter weather
In addition, the disruption of normal activity during the Christmas period may limit your access to mental health services or to people in your support network, who might be abroad or busy with their families. Members of religious groups that do not celebrate Christmas may also experience feelings of marginalization around this time.
Treatment for Depression Over The Christmas Period
Depression, which causes strong feelings of sadness and a lack of interest in normally enjoyable activities in the sufferer (3), can be especially difficult to deal with during the Christmas period, surrounded by public celebrations and expectations of happiness.
However, there are different treatments that can help. For example:
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which uses gentle electric pulses to stimulate brain cells, has been proven to be a safe and effective non-invasive treatment for depression, even when antidepressants have been unsuccessful.(4)
- Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, which includes methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT), can help you identify negative thoughts and behaviors and offer techniques to overcome them.
Talk to Your Doctor
The holiday period can come with significant pressure to appear happy, but if you believe you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, it is still important to seek help from a mental health professional. Any delay could lead to aggravated symptoms down the line.
Your doctor can help you understand which treatments will work best to alleviate your symptoms and help you find relief. Self-care is just as important during Christmas, and paying attention to your mental health is no small part of that.
To make an appointment with a licensed healthcare professional at Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry, contact us online or call (212) 731-2033.
- Sansone RA, Sansone LA. The christmas effect on psychopathology. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2011 Dec;8(12):10-3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257984/. Accessed December 21, 2022.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder. NIMH Information Resource Center. Updated September 25, 2013. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder. Accessed December 21, 2022.
- Depression (major depressive disorder). MayoClinic. Published July 29, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/es-es/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007. Accessed December 21, 2022.
Ge R, Humaira A, Gregory E, et al. Predictive Value of Acute Neuroplastic Response to rTMS in Treatment Outcome in Depression: A Concurrent TMS-fMRI Trial [published online ahead of print, 2022 May 18]. Am J Psychiatry. 2022;appiajp21050541. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35582784/. Accessed December 21, 2022.