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Dealing with depression at Christmas

  • 19 Comments

Depression is a problem for over 2.9 million people over Christmas, according to Dr Gowrisunkur consultant psychiatrist from the Priory.

More than 2.9 million people in the UK are diagnosed as having depression at any one time.  As many as one in three people will be affected by depression at some point in their lives. 

People who have had deaths in the family or have experienced divorce or the loss of a child are more prone to depression, especially during the holiday season.

Dr Jaya Gowrisunkur consultant at the Priory said:  “The last thing someone suffering from depression may feel is optimistic about the New Year but depression is treatable with appropriate interventions and support.

“Psychological treatments for depression are many and varied. They range from the emotional support provided by the regular opportunity to talk about feelings to a professional, right through to specialised forms of psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy.”

A depressed patient will report at least five of the following symptoms for longer than a two week period:

  • Depressed mood, nearly every day during most of the day
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities
  • Significant weight loss, weight gain, or change in appetite
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Agitation or lethargic
  • Fatigue or loss of energ
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Impaired ability to concentrate or indecisiveness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Dr Gowrisunkur said:  “Many people struggle anyway with depression and anxiety during the darkest months of the year.  Christmas adds extra stress with presents to buy, meals to prepare, expectations to live up to and family to deal with.  Add to that the financial problems that might arise when the bills arrive in January and it is little wonder that Christmas is the most likely time of the year to experience depression.

“Feelings off detachment, numbness, loss or pressure to make Christmas special can make the symptoms of depression worse. For people who are on their own Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year.    A sense of isolation can be felt much more acutely when the rest of the population appears to be celebrating and having a good time.”

According to Dr. Gowrisunkur there are a few simple steps that could help alleviate a depression.

  • Beware of drinking to excess.
  • Remember that alcohol is a depressant and can worsen the symptoms of depression.
  • If you are worried about being alone, find out what is going on in your local community or join a local volunteer group.
  • See whether there is a good day or time to visit friends or relatives if you crave company.
  • If, on the other hand, you are worried about being overwhelmed at family events, think ahead about which you want to go to, and which you will be able to make your apologies for.
  • Sharing your feelings with others, such as friends and family members can help you identify and work through any emotional challenges you may be experiencing. Having a reliable network of social supports can help combat the feelings of isolation that often accompany depression.
  • Regular physical activity has been shown to have antidepressant effects in people with mild to moderate depression.
  • Do not be afraid to seek professional help.

Dr Gowrisunkur added:  “At a time when depression is affecting more and more people it is important that the medical profession acts quickly to identify and treat the illness, thereby empowering the sufferer to address the issues and challenges facing them and move ahead with their lives.”

  • 19 Comments

Readers' comments (19)

  • Psychiatrists and psychotherapists live in cloud cou-cou landa and totally out of touch with the feelings of their patients. If you could follow all those simple steps there wouldn't be any need for depression in the first place. What about those of us who have no close friends nearby or any family at all and no supportive social network, job or income byond the basic minimum. Its easier said than done to just go out and join social groups even with the best will in the world and even if one is the most sociable of individuals. They need to be physically accessible e.g. transport, during the daytime for active 60 year old women who are rationally afraid of going out alone at night because of agression. Friends usually have families and do not stop to think one might be alone over Christmas or do not want any hangers on outside family. Anyway it may not be much fun to intrude on a family at such a time and one may just feel like a spare part and mentally be unable to share in all the jolity even though they much show the outward appearance of doing so so as not to upset their hostess/host or others - no wants a sad person in their midst so one can learn to mask one's true feelings.
    Doing sport on one's own which is free of cost is depressing in itself if one is a sociable being and requires huge motivation which is often absent - especially for sports without an objective such as walking, running, etc. Team sports are more fun - fitness centres are totally monotonous to others and demotivating.
    Most others, even close friends don't want to listen to your problems, and even if they do they often don't know how to respond with empathy and instead try to change the subject, avoid it, gloss over it, minimise it, patronise and give inappropriate advise as if one is an idiot who can't think for themselves, or may have already tried a particular strategy and found that it doesn't work for them, or life is as simple as others often try to make out. Others like to make themselves feel good by implying they are coping and can get on with things so why can't you. All this can be very irritating and sometimes very hurtful - as my mother used to say keep your own counsel which can also lead to total social withdrawal. I hope this gives food for though to all those supercillious individuals working with mental health patients while they smugly enjoy Christmas with their families, loved ones and friends.

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  • Further to my comments above, these steps mentioned in the article are merely stating the obvious. Some more original suggestions would be more helpful. Individuals with depression do not lack common sense but when every strategy they try ends in failure they may give up and turn in on themselves and it is the motivation that is lacking and when depression may have serious and dangerous consequences.

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  • I have to agree. Also, if someone has the motivation to engage in these suggestions then, their depression is mild to non-existant!

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  • I had to look twice at this - surely this is meant for the daily mail not a professionals publication - sounds like a sales pitch from a priory doc.

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  • I agree with the previous comment. I would have thought a consultant psychiatrist would have more intelligence and insight and these comments merit some explanation from him or one of his colleagues.

    Individuals suffering from Christmas related depression are being grossly undermined and patronised.

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  • You wouldn't find an article like this written in a professional psychiatric journal so why the Nursing Times. I thought all articles published in this journal were peer reviewed before going to press!

    It is the type of article I would expect to see in a lower end of the market women's magazine where articles cater for individuals with a lower intellect but may be misleading.

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  • so where are the constructive comments
    about dealing with depression at Christmas?

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  • looking through some NT articles it doesn't appear to be an academic journal for nursing professionals. Some of the articles appear to be directed at nurses' own symptoms rather than contributing to the body of evidence based knowledge vital to nurses caring for patients. cf IBS article 19th February which address the 2nd person singular - which is the reader and not the patient. Considering nursing training is soon to be university standard, this is shocking.

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  • I couldnt agree more with the comments that have been written above. I cant imagine what on earth the Nursing times is doing allowing such rubbish to be printed in a so called professional journal.
    All that she has written could be found in magazines lying around dentists surgeries and such like.
    This article trivializes the serious nature of depression and Dr Gowrinsunkur should know better.

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  • I find it hard to comprehend that there seems to be alot of passive aggression related to this subject and Doctor. It is true that there may have been some patronising comments or tips offerred but depression is the black dog of the world and i dont think anyone really understands it. That includes professionals and the person suffering. Open your hearts and let the spirit within shine. Of course antidepressants can help take the edge off as well as following some of the suggestions in the article.

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