In recent years, some researchers have been able to debunk the myth that depression and suicide rates increase during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. But while the numbers do drop slightly during the holiday season, for those suffering from the “holiday blues,” it is a very real issue. While the holiday season may not see an increase in the percentage of people affected by the malady, it can actually amplify feelings in those who already suffer from depression.
The Social Media Effect
Earlier this year, test subjects were found to have a lower sense of well-being over time after reading Facebook status updates. In viewing photos and reading about others’ lives, social media users tend to compare themselves to others, with the results often being unfavorable.
During the holiday season, consumers are bombarded with reminders about the “joy of the season,” whether at the mall, on TV commercials, or simply on the drive to work each morning. Social media is yet one more place for those suffering from depression to be confronted with “holiday cheer,” both through messages and photos of their friends’ festivities. For someone already suffering from depression, those same unfavorable comparisons they experience the rest of the year could be exacerbated by the pressure to be “merry.”
What usually gets lost in all of the photos and updates is that many social media users engage in “impression management,” where they provide a picture-perfect view of their lives. During the holiday season, those posts can reach a frenzy, as a large number of users attend holiday parties and family events. When taken in their totality, these posts can lead someone to feel isolated and lonely, as though they have failed somehow by not being able to achieve this “picture perfect” life.
With treatment, however, these individuals may be able to cope with the effects of holiday depression. Many counselors are realizing the negative impact too much social media can have on a person’s mental health and are encouraging patients to focus more closely on life outside these sites. By distancing themselves from social media as much as possible, patients may find themselves feeling healthier and more productive.
When combined with professional treatment, consumers can distance themselves from the negative effects of social media during the holiday season. For some, the holiday blues are inevitable, but understanding the feelings they’ll experience during the busy Christmas season may help them prepare to seek help and take care of themselves.