Beat the Holiday Blues: Visit Your Primary Care Physician|
CARROLLTON, Texas — For many people, the holiday season represents a time of joy celebrated by gatherings with friends and loved ones. But for others, it sparks sadness or stress, and it can bring on something even more serious.
“Holiday depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health issues we come across during winter,” said family physician Padmajarani Gottipolu, M.D., of Carrollton Family Medicine & Pediatrics, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice. “Most of the time, people think of depression as the blues that will just pass on its own. But for a number of people, depression is a serious mental health condition that requires professional help.”
Because it can be a serious problem, it’s important to be familiar with the signs and symptoms that may signal depression: feelings of guilt or worthlessness, irritability, loss of appetite, weight gain/loss, and changes in sleep, energy and concentration. During the holiday season, these are often caused by unrealistic expectations, financial pressures or old memories of deceased friends and loved ones. For some, family reunions also can be stressful situations.
While professional help is indicated for those experiencing several of these symptoms for two weeks or more, a call to your primary care physician should be the first step in getting help.
“Awareness is key to improving your state of mind and overall well-being,” Gottipolu said. “If you’re worried about yourself or a loved one, the best thing you can do is ask for help.”
One of the more common causes of depression during winter months is vitamin D deficiency, which is caused by diminished amounts of sunlight, Gottipolu said. A vitamin D deficiency can affect a person’s mood, and could potentially contribute to a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mental Health America estimates that SAD affects half a million people every winter between September and April, peaking in December, January and February. The “Winter Blues,” a milder form of SAD, may affect even more people.
There is a clear distinction, however, between having the holiday blues and suffering from clinical depression, Gottipolu said. You should consider seeking professional medical help if your stress becomes all-consuming and you begin feeling persistent anxiety or depression. A professional can best evaluate your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatments. Psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, light therapy and stress-reduction techniques can help people cope with depression and anxiety, and prevent serious consequences.
Some individuals are more vulnerable than others, but people of all ages, races and circumstances are susceptible to depression. So it’s important for everyone to remember the basics of maintaining a healthy lifestyle: “Eat healthy, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, avoid alcohol and smoking, and keep reasonable expectations,” Gottipolu said. “Integrating yourself into a community, whether that’s family or friends, church groups or social clubs, also can benefit your mental health.”
While it’s critical to know there are a number of resources available, most people go first to where they feel most comfortable seeking help: their primary care physicians.
“There are so many people who suffer from depression,” Gottipolu said. “Identifying them early and treating them can prevent serious mental health conditions. So your doctor is a very good place to start.”
To schedule an appointment with Gottipolu, call 972-492-4393 or visit CarrolltonFamilyMedicine.com. Carrollton Family Medicine & Pediatrics is located at 2501 E. Hebron Parkway, Suite 200, in Carrollton.
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