Why do people get depressed during the holidays?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
For many people, the holidays are the most difficult time of the year. Maybe it’s because you’re remembering a lost loved one. Maybe it’s because you’re reminded of the struggles you face every day. Maybe it’s because you let one eggnog last year turn into a bigger belt this year. The fact is that many of us have reasons for feeling blue, anxious, stressed and even downright depressed during the holidays. And that’s not uncommon.

There are, of course, many different kinds of depression. The ones people most commonly think of are major clinical depression (this is classified by depression lasting for more than two weeks with many of the symptoms outlined below) and situational depression that’s tied to an event, such as a life change or a holiday.

Now, the main biological character involved in all kinds of mood issues is the amygdala, a small almond-shaped part of the brain that processes all of the information you receive and attaches an emotion to it. The amygdala controls fear and anxiety and is really involved in both serious emotional issues and even our everyday mood swings.

The goal here isn’t to force the amygdala to be on its best behavior because 24 cousins are on their way to your house (you can’t do that anyway). The goal is to help you understand some signs of depression so that you can ease yourself into a better place.

If you have a significant increase in the following symptoms, experience many at one time or are having any thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else, it may be a sign that you do indeed need help:
  • Sleep change
  • Decreased interest in normal activities
  • Feeling guilty
  • Decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Change in appetite
So what can you do? These tactics can help.

Talk it out: Talking, whether it’s to a friend, a loved one or a professional, seems to be one of the most effective ways to improve mood. The reason: It’s possibly linked to the release of the community-building hormone oxytocin that provides a feel-good effect.

Sweat it out: You may not want to exercise after writing out 792 holiday cards, but you should. A walk or even a more intense sweat session will improve your mood thanks to the endorphins released during a workout.

Have a banana: This is a feel-good food as it helps to improve the effect of another feel-good hormone, serotonin.

This content originally appeared on
Holidays are a time when families, relatives, and friends take the time to celebrate with each other. For those who are alone, who have recently lost a loved one and may not have people to celebrate with, it can cause a variety of emotions such as sadness, loneliness, and regret. Because it can be a time of self-evaluation and reflection, people may also become withdrawn. Individuals suffering from financial hardship may become depressed due to the inability to take care of themselves or provide for their family in the way they would like to for Christmas. All the factors mentioned above and many other circumstances can cause depression during the holidays. It's important to recognize depression, which can become more pronounced during the holiday. However, it's important to seek help for yourself or others if you are feeling depressed at any time.

Continue Learning about Depression Causes & Risks

Getting Help For Depression When You Have Psoriasis
Getting Help For Depression When You Have Psoriasis
While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are treatments that can help people who have psoriasis achieve clear or clearer skin. Treatment is differe...
Read More
Why does depression affect men and women differently?
International Bipolar FoundationInternational Bipolar Foundation
Even though both men and women, rich and poor, rural and urban, blue collar and white can experi...
More Answers
Can where I live make me depressed?
Donna Hill Howes, RNDonna Hill Howes, RN
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who live in the Southeast re...
More Answers
Can Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Be Used to Treat Other Mental Health Conditions in Addition to Depression?
Can Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Be Used to Treat Other Mental Health Conditions in Addition to Depression?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.