Is holiday depression a myth?

For most people the holidays are their favorite time of the year because everyone’s families get together, exchange gifts, eat a huge meal, and just enjoy each others company. Although to many people the holidays seem to be the happiest time of the year, I remember growing up people would tell me that suicide rates peaked during the last two months of the year because of something called holiday depression. Is holiday depression a real thing and does it cause more people to take their own lives during the holidays vs. any other time of the year?

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There are many different opinions out there but the most logical coincide with the fact that holiday depression is a myth. Everyone may feel stressed during the holiday season running around to find the perfect gift or cleaning the house for company but this stress doesn’t usually cause a person to fall into a depression. Many people think holiday depression is a real thing because of a rumor that has been going around for years that suicide rates reach their peak during the holiday months. In fact, the Center for Disease Control  reported that the suicide  rate is actually at its lowest during the month of December, therefore people tend to commit less suicide during the holiday season. Also, the Public Policy Center   has been tracking and analyzing reports since 2000 and just a few years ago they came out with the statement that 50% of articles from 2009-2010 published the myth and made people believe holiday depression is a real thing.

In 1984, Russ Christensen published a journal unveiling the hoax behind holiday depression and exposing it as the myth that is it. After his extensive research, Christensen found that the belief of suicide rates, psychiatric hospitalizations, and ER visits increasing during the holiday season have no credible sources and therefore do not exist.  Russ Christensen also believes that because this myth is such a prominent aspect in society that many people know about, it is swaying doctor’s diagnosis. For example, if someone goes to see a therapist during the holiday months for regular depression, because holiday depression is such a known myth they may unconsciously over diagnosis “holiday depression.” By doing so, they then fail to treat the real problem at hand and their patient goes un-treated for actual depression.

Although holiday depression is a myth, seasonal depression http://www.livescience.com/7394-big-holiday-depression-myth.html is not, and it is an actual serious problem.  Seasonal Affective UnknownDisorder, more commonly known as SAD, is when a person experiences depression during the same season each year and only during that time. Scientists are fully sure what causes it but they think it might have to do with lack of sunlight because it can cause problems with your biological clock and mess up your serotonin chemicals in the brain. SAD differs from regular depression because it only happens for a short period throughout the year and for the rest of the time you are your normal self. So yes, for some people this seasonal depression may fall during the holiday months but this still doesn’t me holiday depression is its own thing.

Even though many people believe in holiday depression, based on research and the input of multiple professionals it can be concluded that yes, holiday depression is a myth but there is such thing as seasonal affective disorder that is completely real and affects many people.

3 thoughts on “Is holiday depression a myth?

  1. Madisen Lee Zaykowski

    The holidays are my favorite time of year. However, I do understand why they could make someone upset…but it never did make sense to me why the suicide rates would increase because it is such a happy time. I would think that being surrounded by happiness and joy during the holidays might help more people with their sadness. So, it did make sense to my that this idea didn’t have any credible resources and turned out to be a myth!

  2. Rachel Wynn Evans

    This is a great topic! I looked further into this for more detail, and found some interesting results. Google Trends allows people to see how often something is searched, and the looking up of terms like “depression” and “anxiety” peaked in Novemeber and January, surround the central holiday month. Dr. Gail Beck, director of youth outpatient psychiatry at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, pointed out that this may be due to holiday expectations. Before December, people are often stressed out reuniting, monetary issues, or emotional problems in general. Searches go down for the month of December and shoot back up in January, which Beck discerns to be the cause of an emotional hangover. Often times holiday expectations are not met, and things may not have been left in good places, resulting in post-holiday-blues.
    Check out the study here: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/holiday-blues-are-real-even-if-december-not-the-peak-time-for-depression

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