The holidays may look sparkly and magical, but for many women, the shimmering surface often belies feelings buried deep beneath: depression.
It might be tough to admit that you're depressed and sad, especially around this time of year, when everyone around you seems to be happily celebrating, bursting with excitement and enthusiasm. Decorations gleam, gifts beckon, parties abound, resolutions are made, and friends and family are all around.
But, it's important to know this: You are far from alone. Holiday time, for many people, often makes them feel depressed and drained of enthusiasm and energy, like the Grinch has grabbed them.
In a survey we conducted about a decade ago, we found that two-thirds of women reported feeling depressed during the holidays. Some possible reasons? Feeling like you "should" be happy; comparing yourself with others; social isolation; seasonal depression in cold, dark winter months; and financial burdens.
While it's normal to feel sad from time to time, depression is different. It's unrelenting and interferes with daily life and functioning. You can't just "snap out of it," and you shouldn't consider it a weakness or character flaw.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression, a result of the combination of biology, lifestyle, hormones and interpersonal relationships. And studies and surveys have found that women are much more likely to seek help for depression (and many other psychological problems) than are men, who might feel that it is a sign of weakness or vulnerability.
Left untreated, depression takes a huge toll on your health and on your friends and family and puts you at an increased risk for suicide.
Know the symptoms. And if you are depressed, reach out for help. The National Institute of Mental Health highlights what to look for:
- Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue or feeling "slowed down"
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early awakening or oversleeping
- Appetite or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
- Restlessness or irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms
Fortunately, depression responds well to treatment, and there are a variety available, including medications, psychotherapy, brain stimulation therapy, light therapy, exercise, acupuncture, meditation, guided imagery, nutrition, faith and prayer.
For more information on depression:
Have You Been Screened for Depression?
A Closer Look at Treatments for Depression
Depression: It's Not Only in Your Head
American Psychological Association
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline