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"The holiday season is usually a time of happiness and enjoyment with family and friends, but that can be different for that suffering from a mental health illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people diagnosed with a mental illness report that the holidays make their conditions worse. This includes increasing symptoms such as sadness, loss, fatigue, and frustration.
Dr. Shane Speights, dean of the New York Institute of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, said that is not a surprising fact. “The problem that we see is that with people gathering around the holidays, sometimes people don’t have great memories because of something in their past during the holidays,” said Speights.
“Not only do they have bad memories, but also you think this is a time for family and friends to get together but when a person doesn't have that, they could get real lonely.” Speights said, unfortunately if a person is experiencing symptoms of mental illness such as depression, their condition can worsen. “This is sometimes a normal thing because the holidays can be very overwhelming,” said Speights.
“When you factor in buying presents for Christmas, having to travel, having to cook, or even having to entertain family and guests can be hard on a person with some sort of mental health condition.” Speights also said Seasonal Affective Disorder can also be the cause of depression during the winter months.
“Now it gets darker earlier this time of year,” said Speights. “It can look cloudy and gloomy outside sometimes and some people need more sunlight which is proven to impact a person’s mood.” Speights said if a person is diagnosed with some sort of mental health illness, they need to prepare no matter how normal it can be to be overwhelmed by the holidays.
“The big concern is when it spills over to actually impact your ability to function during your day, said Speights. “You don't want to go to work, you don't want to do anything. Decreased appetite where you don't want to eat anymore. Those are the things that are a bit concerning.” He said to combat this issue, make sure you consult your medical professional. “There are easy things to be done to help the situation,” said Speights.
“Visit your doctor and make sure you are taking the proper dosage of medication prescribed to you. If you seek a therapist, don’t be afraid to consult them before the holidays. Of course, stay away from alcohol because that has been proven to negatively affect a person fighting depression.”
Speights said, more importantly, surround yourself with people who make you feel good. “You do not want to be alone when you are experiencing emotions of that nature,” said Speights.
“Family members who are knowledgeable about their loved one’s condition should always be on guard making sure that person is not isolated and is loved.”