The holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year.” Friends are cooking, shopping, and comparing holiday plans. With all of this activity comes the expectation that we too must feel festive, excited, and involved.
However, for some of us, the holidays bring feelings of loss and regret. We compare the present with the past and think one or both are lacking in the idealized atmosphere we believe the holidays should inspire. We miss people and times no longer with us. But what is the difference between sadness and the more serious condition of depression?
Sadness is a normal emotion caused by challenging life events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, financial trouble, or issues in the home, according to Medical News Today. People experiencing sadness can usually find relief from crying, venting, or talking frankly about their feelings. Sadness usually passes with time, but if a low mood worsens or lasts longer than two weeks, people should consult their doctor. They may be experiencing depression.
Health professionals consider depression a mental disorder that can exert a powerful influence on a person’s life. It can affect anyone of any age. Depression’s symptoms include:
- Feelings of discouragement
- A lack of motivation
- Loss of interest in activities an individual once found enjoyable
- In severe cases, people with depression may consider or attempt suicide. They may avoid friends and family, stop pursuing hobbies, or feel unable to work or attend school. Such feelings lasting longer than two weeks may be diagnosed as a major depressive disorder by a healthcare professional.
A recent Forbes article noted adults aged 65 and older account for 18 percent of our country’s suicides, even though they make up only 12 percent of our population. Older adults who skip medications or doctors’ appointments, abuse drugs or alcohol, give away their possessions, and stockpile medications exhibit risk factors for suicide. Isolation can play a role in worsening the symptoms of depression. This is why social contact is so important. Even a daily hello from a Meals on Wheels driver can make a difference in lifting a person’s morale or detecting whether someone is feeling down.
People dealing with suicidal thoughts, sadness, depression, or substance abuse can call or text 988 for free support, available around-the-clock, 24 hours a day. Anyone uncomfortable with talking on the phone can chat on the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988lifeline.org.
You wouldn’t perform a physical medical procedure on yourself, so don’t think you can counsel yourself out of a medical condition like depression. If sadness persists or becomes overwhelming, please ask for help. You’ll be glad you did. Going it alone, trying to tough it out, or thinking you can handle depression without professional advice are unlikely to succeed—at this or any time of the year.