We are told that Christmas should be the happiest time of year, an opportunity to be joyful and happy with family, friends and colleagues. Yet, according to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience the highest incidence of depression. Hospitals and police forces report the highest incidences of suicide and attempted suicide. Mental health professionals report a significant increase in patients complaining about depression.
With the festive season upon us, most will be out celebrating with friends and families. But the added stresses associated with Christmas can bring about depression. For those affected by depression, Christmas can be the very worst time of the year.
Christmas can be a sad and lonely time for those who live alone, feeling their isolation even more acutely when faced with greater socialising going on around them.
For those who don’t have a big family (or you do, but you don’t get on ), or are single, or have recently split up with a partner, or been bereaved, then Christmas can be truly miserable.
The trouble with Christmas is that there tends to be a great build-up about it – the shops are full of decorations and gifts, and magazines are full of pictures of people at parties, or happy families in wonderful houses opening presents by roaring fires, or eating yummy-looking food.
The reality, for the vast majority of people is very different. Most people don’t spend December in a whirl of parties – many only go round to friends for a casual drink, and never need to dress up. And Christmas Day itself is often a complete let down – it just never feels as magical and different as it’s supposed to.
It can be a worrying time particularly for those on low incomes and benefits, who may have gone into debt in order to buy presents. Christmas can be a stressful time for employees who are under pressure at work to clear the decks before the holidays, but who are also expected to engage in the usual round of parties and drinks evenings.
For some people, they get depressed at Christmas and even angry because of the excessive commercialisation of Christmas, with the focus on gifts and the emphasis on “perfect” social activities. Other get depressed because Christmas appears to be a trigger to engage in excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life (and a “victim” mentality) in comparison with other people who seem to have more and do more. Still others become anxious at Christmas because of the pressure (both commercial and self-induced) to spend a lot of money on gifts and incur increasing debt. Other people report that they dread Christmas because of the expectations for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances that they’d rather not spend time with. And finally, many people feel very lonely at Christmas, because they have suffered the loss of loved ones or their jobs.