As the days get shorter, the amount of sunlight decreases, and by dinnertime it is dark. Combine that with the stress, fatigue and hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s no wonder that seasonal depression is most common from November through February, explains Whitney O’Connor, Director of Business Development at Aurora Behavioral Health Services.
Depression around the holidays can also be related to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is very common this time of year. “We see more people in January and February as they are dealing with the letdown after the holidays. Also, our biological rhythms are off because of less sunlight, decreased serotonin levels and increased melatonin levels,” she says. “This can make people feel lethargic and without a sense of purpose, and snowball into depression.”
Depression Can Happen to Anyone
O’Connor says depression can happen to anyone at any time. “Just because you don’t have a history of it doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you,” she says. “At Aurora, we see people of all ages, from children to seniors. We help stabilize them and connect them with resources outside so they can be successful.” O’Connor also explains that many people fear they will have to be admitted or put on medications, and that simply is not true. “For many people, it is as simple as meeting with a therapist to help them work through their issues and put things into perspective. If you don’t need medication, they will not give it to you,” she says. “And there are many evolving therapies, so people have more choices and can pick what they think will help them.”
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O’Connor says the classic symptoms of depression include sadness; no interest in usual activities; eating and sleeping more or less than usual; feelings of guilt and worthlessness; trouble concentrating; and feeling suicidal. “If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, do not be prideful – reach out for help,” says O’Connor. “And of course, if someone is threatening to harm themselves or others, call 9-1-1 immediately.”
WE ARE HERE TO HELP 24/7
Aurora Pavilion Behavioral Health Services offers a free, comprehensive community service called RESPOND, which provides free crisis assessments, information and referral services for psychiatric and substance use problems. RESPOND professionals are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 803-641-5900 or 800-273-7911.