Holidays, Depression & Chronic Pain

Holidays, Depression & Chronic Pain

holidays, depression and chronic painThe holiday season is right around the corner. No matter what you celebrate, one thing is for sure: depression tends to worsen this time of year. In fact, in 2014, 64% of Americans said their mental illness was worse during the holidays, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. So, why does depression get worse during the holidays? Keep reading to learn the link between the holidays, chronic pain and depression.

What is depression?

Depression, also called major depressive disorder or chronic depression, is a mental health condition that affects nearly 16 million Americans. This condition is a mood disorder, meaning it affects thoughts, emotions and behaviors. While an occasional bad day is normal, persistent feelings of negative emotions are not and may signs of depression.

Depression is more likely to affect women than men and can manifest differently depending on sex and gender. For example, depressive teenagers are prone to issues in school and other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or eating disorders.

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of loss or extreme loneliness
  • Feelings of guilt or blame
  • Angry outbursts or unreasonable frustration
  • Loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking
  • Lack of energy and fatigue
  • Weight and food inconsistency
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions (If you are having suicidal thoughts or actions, please call 911 or a suicide line, such as National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.)


Depression and chronic pain

People who have chronic pain are much more likely to also have conditions like depression and anxiety. Pain is not just physical; it can have emotional and mental side effects, too. Chronic pain can bring feelings of hopelessness, loneliness or low self-esteem. In addition, the relationship between financial difficulties and missed work is common for chronic pain sufferers. These can also be triggers for depression.

The physical aspects of pain can certainly increase chances for depression. Pain lowers activity levels and can often be debilitating. With lowered activity levels, the brain doesn’t benefit from the positive impacts of exercise. And depression can even cause physical symptoms, most notably back or neck pain and headaches. This can make chronic pain symptoms worse.

Holiday depression

We’ve talked about seasonal affective disorder previously, and while this may be related to holiday depression, there are some differences. While seasonal affective disorder is tied to the physical seasons, holiday depression is more closely linked with activities and the emotional connection to the holidays. A number of things can increase depressive feelings during the holidays. For example, increased stress or pressure, family issues or financial problems can all become more common during the holidays. These are all triggers that might make your depression worse. Many other factors, including weather and activity levels, also impact feelings of depression.

How to cope with holidays and depression

Coping with holiday depression can be difficult, but it can be done. Use these tips to help you get through the holiday season.

Manage expectations

If you have depression or chronic pain, the holidays may have some ups and downs–and that’s okay. During the holidays, we tend to think about our lives in terms of the “ideal” life, but in reality, your life does not have to perfect. In fact, no one’s is. Managing your expectations during the holidays, either for your physical abilities or emotional strength, can help you stay healthy during the season.

Understand limitations

Closely related to expectations are limitations. If you suffer from intense pain, physical or mental, you need to understand your limitations. You don’t have to do it all during the holidays. It’s more important to find your limitations and honor them, so that you can stay well for the remainder of the year.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a tool to help you connect to yourself and the present moment. You can practice mindfulness in a variety of ways, including with food. Mindful eating during the holidays can help you fight inflammation, helping chronic pain. Mindfulness practices like yoga or deep breathing can also help you cope with depression, in tandem with your other treatment methods.

See a behavioral health specialist

Most importantly, talk with a behavioral health specialist. These are highly trained individuals who will help you create a treatment plan that is right for you. Whether you suffer from anxiety, depression, chronic pain, a combination or more, behavioral health specialists can diagnose and help manage your conditions.


The Pain Management Group_AdvancedHEALTHFor more information on The Pain Management Group, please visit or schedule an appointment at one of our locations throughout Middle Tennessee.

We are committed to providing individualized care and vow to treat each patient with compassion and respect, never turning anyone away. Our physicians are fellowship-trained pain specialists who utilize a combination of interventional procedures and medication management services to tailor a personalized care plan for each patient’s long-term pain relief.