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Help for Holiday Depression and Anxiety

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Laura Tenbus

December 17, 2018
The holidays are often thought of as the happiest time of the year, but for many, this simply isn’t the case. With increasingly busy schedules and the pressures of gift giving, the holiday season doesn’t always live up to joyous expectations. This can be especially true if you’re experiencing the symptoms of depression or anxiety. Anxiety can be either chronic (ongoing and long-term) or seasonal. Seasonal anxiety often starts in the fall and continues throughout the winter. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in your brain's serotonin and melatonin levels, which disrupts your mood and sleep patterns. Even though seasonal anxiety is temporary, it is no less serious than chronic anxiety, and if you see symptoms in yourself, you should schedule an appointment to talk with your primary care physician (PCP).

It may be challenging to recognize whether your feelings are due to the heightened stress of the season or if they indicate more serious anxiety. Here are some common symptoms that could mean you are experiencing higher than normal levels of stress:
  • Feelings of nervousness or restlessness
  • Excessive worrying
  • Trouble concentrating on everyday activities
  • Insomnia and/or fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Gastrointestinal problems
Depression can also be seasonal and often accompanies anxiety. Common symptoms of depression include:
  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Prolonged sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
If you aren't sure whether you're experiencing anxiety or depression, your PCP can help. The good news is that both conditions are treatable with a variety of options like practicing relaxation techniques, counseling or therapy sessions, increasing physical exercise, taking prescription medications, or a combination of all the above. GBMC Health Partners Primary Care has incorporated routine behavioral health screening tests to help identify potential anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders and ensure patients get the treatment and resources they need.

To serve our patients better, GBMC and Sheppard Pratt Health System formed a collaborative partnership in November 2016. The joint initiative embeds full-time licensed clinical social workers (also called behavioral health consultants) in GBMC Health Partners Primary Care practices. They work alongside visiting Sheppard Pratt psychiatrists and substance use counselors (for prescribed and illegal substances) from Kolmac Outpatient Recovery Centers. Having these specialists available in primary care practices gives patients the care they need more quickly, and in a comfortable, familiar setting. It can also help to prevent unnecessary Emergency Room visits, where people go when they mistake symptoms of stress and anxiety for something like a heart attack. Watch this short video to learn more.

If you suspect that someone you know is going through anxiety or depression, is using prescribed or illegal substances to cope, or is having the symptoms listed above, support them by being receptive and listening. Remind them that anxiety and depression are more common than they may think and there is no shame in seeking treatment. Encourage them to make an appointment with their doctor, and if they are hesitant or uncomfortable, offering to go with them can make all the difference in the world.

For more information about GBMC Health Partners Primary Care practices, visit
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