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How to Distinguish Between Holiday Blues and Chronic Depression

While the holidays are commonly known as a time for joy and celebration, for some individuals, they can have the opposite effect. This is because the season can also result in additional stress, loneliness, or depression. It’s important to try and differentiate between what constitutes holiday blues and something more serious like clinical depression so that treatment options can be explored. In this post, we’ll help unwrap this difficult subject matter so you can distinguish seasonal sadness from more prolonged depression.

Why Do the Holidays Cause Depression for Some?

Unfortunately for many, the festive spirit is often marred by feelings of depression for a variety of reasons.

  • Loss of a Loved One: Holidays can be an emotional time when families gather, making the loss of someone close all the more painful. Recalling past holidays when their presence was felt can leave one feeling incredibly alone in present-day celebrations.
  • Poor Relations with Family: Holiday reunions might feature family disagreements that could result in strain, leading to feelings of depression and added stress.
  • Loneliness: For some, the holidays can also serve as a cruel reminder of their solitude. Watching others rejoice with loved ones makes their loneliness even more potent.
  • Addiction: For those battling addiction, the holidays can be an especially trying time of year. Increased socializing and stress may trigger relapses during celebrations - turning celebratory occasions into temptation-filled situations.

Whether your depression is seasonal or chronic, it’s imperative to understand the symptoms and take immediate steps to get treatment.

Is it Chronic Depression or Simply Sadness Around the Holidays?

Sometimes the line between seasonal depression and perpetual sadness may be blurred. These distinctions below may help clarify it for you.

Strive to Understand the Root Cause

Step back from life as an observer and dig deeper by surveying your emotional landscape for signs of something in particular that might be causing your depression. Are the recent losses of loved ones or tension within family relationships taking a toll on you? Are nights getting longer that leave you feeling lonelier than before? 

Whatever it may be, even familiar memories from past holidays could bring unpleasant feelings and stir up sorrowful emotions in you. Maybe a secret struggle with substance use is triggered during the festivities. Finding out where your feelings stem from can be challenging, but understanding whether or not what you are dealing with is holiday blues or long-term depression is crucial to finding a solution.


Asking yourself how often you are feeling down or depressed is key in distinguishing chronic depression from something temporary. Whether your bleaker days reflect seasonal causes or your outlook, in general, is much darker than usual, understanding the frequency and intensity of depressive episodes could provide clues as to what you are experiencing might be.

How Do I Get Help?

If chronic depression has you feeling down this holiday season, now is the time to take action. Seeking professional assistance and relying on a solid support network are both critical assets in helping you navigate through this time.

Professional Assistance

There is no shame in seeking help when trying to combat depression on your own. Reaching out for professional guidance can enable you to find healing strategies and therapies. They may offer strategies to cope with difficult emotions as well as ways of healing that go beyond what you might be able to accomplish on your own. Reaching out for mental health counseling helps equip individuals with all the tools necessary for healthily managing their depression, whether it’s primarily brought on by the holidays or not.

New Activities to Explore

Remembering happier holiday moments can help spur your creativity and cause you to find new activities to explore this holiday season. Taking time out of your busy schedule to slow down, channel the things that bring you joy, and discover new hobbies can help lead you to newfound fulfillment. Holiday-themed activities that can help you be creative include experimenting with painting ornaments, ideating festive DIY crafts, or even trying new recipes - you might just discover your new hobby! Activities that promote creativity provide not only a welcome distraction but also a healthy outlet to pour your emotions into. They can provide the boost needed to turn holiday seasons from dread to accomplishment and help elevate your spirits.

Take control of your mental health and holiday season by embarking on exciting new activities - you never know, just a bit of fun can go a long way toward managing chronic depression.

Reconnect with Family

Holidays can be challenging if you find yourself alone and isolated, but know that your life is valuable and there are always people out there who care for and cherish you. Reconnecting with family can provide a comforting barrier against the bitter winds of depression. Isolation may temporarily feel preferable, but isolation may only add fuel to an already destructive snowstorm of emotions.

Picking up the phone, drafting an email to a loved one, or sending out holiday cards are all positive ways to reconnect with family, especially if you haven’t spoken to them in a while. It’s vital to do anything that will help ease you out of isolation and back toward community.

No family is perfect and sometimes feeling out-of-place is normal; just remember, holidays are about togetherness, love, and human connections; finding ways to reconnect with family could be a key asset in helping you manage your chronic depression symptoms.

Do Not Hesitate to Call a National Hotline

If your depression continues to persist, professional help may be necessary. Remember, it's always okay to seek professional assistance when necessary. Many national hotlines offer confidential, nonjudgmental support around the clock. Reaching out and sharing your feelings may feel intimidating at first, but it’s crucial to realize that there are people out there who care about your well-being and want to help you. Dialing a depression hotline number is an active step toward understanding your feelings and finding solutions to manage or overcome chronic depression. Your greatest priority this holiday season should be achieving mental wellness.

You may not always feel happy every minute of every day, and that’s okay. However, recognizing the difference between holiday blues and chronic depression is essential for maintaining a positive mental state. Don't feel afraid to seek assistance and let someone know how you’re feeling this holiday season and beyond.

Discover Jackson House: Your Partner in Conquering Depression

Are you struggling with chronic depression and unsure how to navigate its challenges? Jackson House can be your ally through these trying times - we offer an inclusive environment and customized treatment plans designed to better manage chronic depression. Contact us today to discover more about our treatment programs and how they can help you.

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

It's time to feel better

We are here to help and we are in-network with most insurance providers. Call us for a free and confidential consultation.

If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.