Holiday depression? Why?

Let me get this straight-people get depressed around the holidays, because they feel that they “ought” to feel happy (because of the holiday season). The fact that they feel that they “ought” to feel happy makes them unhappy-so they become more unhappy-because they think that they “think” that they should be happy.
Does this make senses?:smack:

Yeah, I get what you’re saying. It’s like why should I be happy because everyone else is happy? You don’t want to be happy to join the crowd if you’re not happy…so you get mad/depressed and it goes into a cycle. If you are not with the crowd then you are “different.”

Depression is not a rational disease one can think their way out of. Or even act their way out of, for the most part.

Seasonal depression is common in times of less sunlight and reduced opportunities for physical activities. Adding to those factors are things like getting the message that you ought to be happy because of the season and that you should be surrounded by loving family and friends at this time.

a smudge on a dirty shirt is more at home than one on a clean shirt.

If you think you should be happy but know you’re not, it’s quite natural to think “I must be doing something wrong”. Knowing that you’re doing something wrong, but not knowing what it is, or how to make it right, is a very frustrating feeling.

Oh, so true.

I went on anti depressants for the second time about two months ago. There was no situational “reason” for me to be depressed. I could completely recognize that my thoughts were not rational as I was having them. That didn’t keep them from coming, on enable me to stop them. I could get anxious over the silliest stupid shit - and Christmas and the holidays piles a ton of silly stupid shit to get anxious over “what if I buy a present my mom doesn’t like?” “What if the turkey is dry?” “What if the cat knocks down the Christmas tree?” (Answers on medication “so what, so what, this year you aren’t putting on the glass ornaments.” Answers off medication were paralyzing “I shouldn’t even try.”)

Mine doesn’t tend to be seasonal and I was running while I was getting ever more depressed - so it wasn’t the exercise either. In fact, before I went to the pills, I did eighteen months of behavioral therapy seeing if I could break the irrational thought patterns and establish the healthy patterns that help prevent depression - enough sunlight, exercise, healthy eating, scheduled sleep, etc. Nope. I can see how these would work, that rational part of me that remained. And they kept me from falling off the edge for eighteen months. But I was never “better” until I went on medication.

That’s not the only reason people get depressed around the holidays, though. They can also feel depressed because they don’t have what they think they “should” have–which is very close to “ought,” of course. And one thing most people think they should have is a loving family with which to share the holidays, so instead of just feeling like they should be happy but they’re not, they focus on WHY they should be happy–what others have that they don’t have. I have lots of single/no immediate family friends (no spouse or children, I mean), and they tend to get at least a little down during this time of year because once again it is pointed out to them (by themselves, usually) that they’ve spent another year alone.

Comparing yourself to other people and finding yourself wanting is very unproductive and is a major source of depression.

I am also single (divorced) and have no kids, but I try to focus on what I do have instead of what I don’t–or “should”–have. But I’ve been in therapy and have been learning to let go of “shoulds.” And “oughts.”

Some people’s thought processes and emotional responses are a bit complex. Don’t hurt yourself trying to figure it out.

Well, why do I get depressed around holiday seasons? I go out to the streets and see happy families. Dads and sons together tend to drive me over the wall; of course, this is because of my own childhood and people who tend to be unhappy indulges too much in comparison. Adding to the woes is when you see couples, happy families and people hanging out with their gang and you are all alone. sniff

Compounding the problem for people who just don’t have a family to go back to is that Christmas/Thanksgiving is a family occasion. Most of my friends are either celebrating with their family (at least those with a Christian/Catholic background) or celebrating with their SO. Of course, I intend to gather all the “Loners for Christmas” I know for some sort of party, but it depends if I manage to snap myself out from my self-pity :slight_smile:

Actually, it goes beyond “I must be doing something wrong” . . . to “There must be something wrong with me.” That can be devastating.

But it’s also a very common thing to do. I would guess that everybody who has ever lived (and who got to a cognitive level where they could think something like this) has done it at some point in their lives.

Note: that includes all the people you’ve ever compared yourself to. Julius Caesar supposedly was sad because he wasn’t able to conquer as much territory as Alexander the Great.

I used to have seasonal depression in the clinical sense, but since moving to Colorado (with all the sunshine!) I haven’t had that particular level. But the holidays do tend to get me down a bit, and I’ll try to explain why.

I’ve chosen not to have children, I’m not married (and more than likely will remain that way throughout the rest of my life), I live 2000 miles away from my biological family (by choice, but still), and my biological family has, in many ways, become incredibly dysfunctional, but not in such an overt way that I can call it out.

So, being surrounded by messages of the season in which the norm is happy families spending time together and being excited when the far-flung members of the family make it home in time for the feast, sort of gets me down. Not in the clinical sense, but in a low-level ennui kind of way.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s my life and I’ve chosen it this way, and for 11 or so months out of the year I’m incredibly happy living outside of the societal norms and boundaries regarding life choices. I have great friends and a fantastic job that I love, and hobbies that bring me joy, and many other blessings. Intellectually/cognitively, I am able to recognize all the good in my life, and the ridiculousness of attempting to fit a mold that really seems to only exist in advertisements.

But the irrational part of me looks at what’s being presented in those ads as the norm, and kinda misses/wants it.

I was having a great day yesterday, cooking and enjoying my family.

Then I was alone in the kitchen pulling meat off the turkey when some old memory came creeping by of my childhood. Suddenly I missed my mother and grandparents so much I sat down and cried a while. We had such a close family back then. All my aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends were together.

Now it’s just my household celebrating.

I love my family and I’m a happy person, but I had such a wonderful childhood and all those people I loved are gone, along with our quirky traditions. So while I’m happy, I got really depressed for a while. Then I got mad at myself for it when I’m so lucky to have a great family now. That only made me feel worse. I went to bed sad last night, but today I’m perfectly fine again.

This year I’m on an anti-depressant. It’s much better for me now, but last year I was depressed and anxious from Thanksgiving, past my 39th birthday, on through Christmas and New Years. It truly sucks when everyone else is so jolly and happy and all I wanted was for it to all just go away.

It’s not that you feel that you ought to be happy, everyone is telling you to be happy. Be of good cheer, good tidings of joy, yada yada. Turn on the TV and it’s happy smiling people doing happy smiling things, and if you’re not happy and if you don’t have/can’t find reasons to be happy, it hurts.

Yes, this exactly. As someone else mentioned, this time of year is very very family-focused, so as a single childless adult, for example, you may be left thinking “stupider, crueler, uglier people than I am are married and have kids and I can’t get a date and what the hell is wrong with me?” And those thoughts can snowball very quickly into a very, very bad thing.

There’s also the issue of loss in this time of year. For me, the holidays are bad because all of the traditions that have been meaningful in my life have ended as one by one, loved ones have died or grown too old or infirm to continue doing the things that we’ve done in the past. It’s impossible to try to find a way to celebrate the season without reminiscing and finding what’s currently available wanting in the face of absent loved ones.

Add to that, the issue of Seasonal Affective Disorder and the depression that can come from that and it all snowballs into a very bleak time of year for a lot of people, probably more than people realize.

I wonder if the whole concept of happy winter holidays is a way to deal with the mass neurosis of seasonal affective disorder and the harshness of winter. I read in a book once (2201 fascinating facts I believe) that most cultures had festive holidays during the winter season. So celebrating the coming of the winter solstice and trying to nudge people out of their low key depression could be fairly universal.

In that case its an even bigger chicken/egg problem. People are unhappy because they think they are supposed to be happy during winter holidays. But they are supposed to be happy in the first place because the weather makes them unhappy.

As far as why people get happy, a lack of sunlight leading to less vitamin D production (via sunlight hitting the skin) and less serotonin production (via sunlight hitting the eyes) can cause depression. Add in the harshness of winter (which is manageable now, but before industrialization when most people were sustenance farmers was much worse) and yeah, people aren’t happy. Go watch a PBS special called ‘frontier house’. The whole series is families seeing if they could survive a winter in 1883 by collecting enough resources. Most couldn’t and the experts said they would’ve died during winter.

I"d be celebrating the winter solstice too.

Yeah, I’m heading toward my first Christmas since my husband died. Our anniversary is right before Christmas, too. And he died shortly after Christmas, and my dad died right before Christmas a few years ago, so it’s just an unhappy time of year for me.

Holidays have historically been a very bad time of year for me. My Mom would be at her most violent/suicidal around the holidays when I was growing up. At one time we did something like getting the extended family together for Thanksgiving, but then something awful happened (on Thanksgiving, actually) to change all that, and now very few members of my family actually speak to one another, much less get together on the holidays. I have an egregiously dysfunctional family, so it’s hard to celebrate and feel loved and supported at a time when supposedly that’s what other people are feeling and doing.

It’s even harder when people bitch about petty problems with their family members and don’t even realize how good they have it. I realize ‘‘sour grapes’’ is not an admirable response to misfortune, but that’s human nature. Sometimes the security and stability that others enjoy can really drive home the injustice of it all. For one thing, people are all kinds of curious about how your holiday went, and generally assume the answer is going to be positive or in the very least neutral. You don’t realize how loaded those questions can be for some people. Inevitably, some well-meaning but incredibly naive person will come along and try to make me feel better by perpetuating that myth, ‘‘Every family is dysfunctional,’’ which really only intensifies the feeling of alienation of people like me who know damn well that the average person cannot relate to having a family as screwed up as mine is. But thanks for rubbing it in.

Some people might feel the same way about me, though. I’ve had more than one person comment on how fortunate I am to have such a stable and supportive marriage, and maybe I do take that for granted (taking good things for granted is just as much human nature as feeling sorry for yourself.) Since getting married, some of the sting of the holidays is alleviated by the presence of my husband and my in-laws. I have learned to replace the grief and loss usually associated with this time of year with a hopeful and celebratory spirit focused on the present rather than the past. In fact, I don’t have much to complain about from the perspective of my current reality. I really feel for those without a supportive family who also don’t have a partner or alternative support network. Those are the people truly hurting.

As a sufferer of chronic depression, I agree with Qadgop. There is no rational ‘‘why’’ for depression. Nothing irritates me more than people asking me why I’m depressed. Nobody asks you why you have a cold, or why you have arthritis. Even my husband, who is a goddamned Ph.D. student in clinical psychology, still asks me, at times, why I am depressed. Sometimes I snarkily reply, ‘‘My brain is apparently not producing enough seratonin.’’ To which he usually responds, ‘‘touché.’’

I love Halloween, and as soon as it’s over I slide down down down into a deep depression that doesn’t slack off until after New Years. When I was young we used to visit my rich uncle in Westchester County during Thanksgiving, have a splendid Martha Stewart quality meal, and the next day take the train into the city for sightseeing and a Broadway show. Now most of my relatives are dead and others have moved away. Thanksgiving is very, very hard for me now. But what’s left of us HAVE to go through the motions, cooking the stinking turkey, spending all that money on a mediocre meal when secretly we’d all rather go out to eat. But NO, “it’s Thanksgiving!!!” we have to have the damn turkey in the refrigerator for god knows how long, and sit and stare at each other while a football game blares in the background, and life just stinks.

Christmas, oddly, is easier since I decided to make it easier, and cut back. We have an artificial tree now, I don’t kill myself decorating the house for people who just don’t care one way or another. I don’t work myself up into a frenzy picking out “just the right gift”, or cooking and baking fabulous things for people who just don’t care one way or another and would be just as happy with a dumbass “gift” from Walmart and a box of Hostess Ho-hos!

This is true, however I think it’s only natural to see other people having a good time and feel bad if you aren’t a part of it.
Another possibility is that the holiday seasons serve to highlight the passage of time. It’s winter. It gets dark at 4pm. Another year has passed. Everyone is a bit older. Maybe your parents still live in your childhood home and there has been a lot of changes. I always find that a bit depressing about the holidays.

Really though, it’s not until the day after New Years when all the holiday stuff shuts off and you’re just left with winter that I find it depressing.

If the holidays weren’t during the late fall/early winter, I think people would get less depressed. In the northern states coast to coast over a third of people have SAD (some stats claim it’s a high as 60%). A study conducted in Boston showed that people that far north don’t produce vitamin D - not any - between November and March, so vitamin deficiency is a big problem no one knows about. So by December a lot of people are already feeling the effects of SAD because they’re not making any vitamin D. No wonder they’re already getting depressed!