Depression is to Winter as Anxiety is to the Holidays
Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. The symptoms of anxiety can lead to depression and vice versa. According to recent insight from Google, the colder, shorter months of winter undoubtedly lead an increased number of people to search the web for information on seasonal depression. Interestingly, the same Google statistics show that search volume for anxiety remains relatively the same during the cold winter months as compared to the summertime. The paradox is that winter also brings on the stressful and anxiety-provoking holiday season.
Google Provides Insight on Seasonal Depression
According to Google, search queries for depression and other related mental health problems rose 14 percent last winter during the month of January. Google searches for depression also rose 11 percent in Australia during the month of July. Winter in Australia begins in March.
The obvious conclusion is that more people are searching online for information about depression during the colder, shorter months of winter. The statistics also suggest that seasonal depression affects a large number of people. However, even more insight can be drawn from the powerhouse search engine known as Google.
While Google search queries for depression peaked in January, so did queries for schizophrenia, anorexia and bulimia (a combined 37 percent increase) as well as ADHD (a 31 percent increase). These statistics suggest that the winter months may lead to other mental health problems aside from seasonal depression.
Anxiety Might Not Be a Seasonal Disorder
Perhaps the most interesting statistic, however, is that search queries for anxiety increased only slightly during the winter months as compared to the summertime. The simple conclusion is that changes in season may not impact people with anxiety.
Based on these statistics, anxiety may in fact be unrelated to the same change in season that leads to seasonal depression. However, the winter months in the United States bring more than just colder, shorter days. Winter also brings the holidays.
Social Anxiety Disorder and the Holidays
For most people, the holidays bring a warm tradition of parties and family gatherings. For people dealing with an anxiety disorder, particularly social anxiety disorder (SAD), the idea of gathering in a crowded room, chit-chatting with co-workers and exchanging gifts with family can be nothing short of terrifying. Holiday anxiety can become so severe that you try anything to avoid it. But avoidance only perpetuates the fear.
Ways to De-stress During the Holidays
Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to minimize social anxiety during the holidays (Social Anxiety Treatment). Here are some tips to help you better enjoy the holiday season:
- Focus on your expectations. People with social anxiety who set high expectations are more likely to feel let down. Instead, remember that things might not go exactly as planned. Learn to be okay with the way things work out. This will take away a lot of the pressure you may be putting on yourself.
- Identify specific concerns. You might be afraid to say the wrong thing or simply to feel embarrassed. Often times, the worst thing that can happen is that you feel uncomfortable. Remind yourself of this to help you relax.
- Be realistic. Social anxiety disorder can make you feel like people are paying attention to you, when in reality most people are wondering what you are thinking about them. A great way to reduce the stress associated with social anxiety is to give someone a compliment. It will make them feel good and in return, you will feel good.
- Avoid self-medicating. Alcohol, drugs or even cigarettes seem to take the edge off during holiday events but can actually make anxiety worse or even trigger a panic attack. (more on self-medicating anxiety)
- Keep it simple. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for social anxiety is smile, make eye contact and ask questions. Stick to simple topics to keep stress at bay. Ask people about their holiday plans, their children or any books they are reading.
- Just say “no”. It’s easy to over-schedule during the holidays. Instead of accepting every invitation, eliminate some of the holiday events that bring more stress than enjoyment.
D'Aconti, A. (2013, November 20). Depression is to Winter as Anxiety is to the Holidays, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2013/11/depression-is-to-winter-as-anxiety-is-to-the-holidays
Author: Anthony D'Aconti
I lived for 4 years in Alaska. The amount of daylight definitely has a direct effect on depression. A lot of my friends that lived there had sun lamps. I don't know if it is emotional or tied into vitamin D, or both.
Daylight has been proven to affect chemicals in the brain that influence mood. It's emotional, psychological and very real.
Lenny, I think a lot of people feel depressed from the early darkness and cold temperatures. And that is perfectly normal. Even people with good mental health get down and avoid "everything" by default. If you purposely avoid everything, on the other hand, then the problem becomes a lot more serious. I think the key is to accept that the winter months can affect your mood but not to let those feelings control you. And in the summertime, who needs an excuse? Just go outside in the warm, bright sun and hopefully, you'll feel just fine!
I completely agree! It is just too easy to be influenced by the depressing early darkness and cold temperatures and I wind up staying inside thus avoiding EVERYTHING. It is just easier to hide behind those excuses this time of year and no one seems to question it because even "normal" people seem to be affected by it too at times. The downside is that once it becomes warm and sunny again, I then lose my excuse :(