Why am I depressed at the holidays?

by: Lisa Conway

                It is estimated that 20% of people age 55 or older experience some type of mental health concern. Depression is a type of mood disorder associated with distress and suffering. It is the most prevalent mental health concern among older adults. Although the rate of adults with depression tends to increase with age, it is not a normal part of growing older.

                Mental Health and the Holidays

Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety during the months of November and December can make the holidays particularly difficult and lonely. The emphasis on gift giving, shopping, cooking, parties and travel can be overwhelming. We may feel pressure to maintain beloved traditions, even as we are acutely aware of loss and change. 

                Recognizing depression

Depression is more than just a passing mood.  A depressed individual may experience persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.  Aside from the outward emotional signs, people may exhibit physical symptoms such as chronic pain or digestive issues.

                Overcoming the stigma — The stigma attached to mental illness is stronger in the older population. Therefore, seniors may express their depressive symptoms in terms of physical complaints rather than traditional symptoms. This can delay the appropriate treatment, as doctors search for answers to a physical malady. If you (or someone you care about) are experiencing physical symptoms with no forthcoming explanations, consider asking your physician for a depression screening for further evaluation.

                To learn more about depression and bolstering your mental health, consider these two upcoming events: Managing the Holidays on November 4 at One Senior Place in Viera, presented by Counseling Resource Services. And on November 12, join me for a discussion of senior mental health challenges at the Suntree United Methodist Church Mental Health Fair. For more information, call 321-751-6771.


One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging. Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera. Ms. Conway hosts a monthly seminar, ‘Senior Health Friday with Nurse Lisa.’