Holidays generate loneliness for some

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 12, 2000

Staff Writer

Dec. 11, 2000 10 PM

It is not the "hap, happiest season of all" for some people.

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While the holidays bring joy with the gathering of family and friends for some, it’s a time of loneliness and sadness for others.

Not only do the holidays bring forth depression in those prone to the blues, but the overcast days of winter are also a trigger.

Working at East Central Mental Health has shown Carol Booker that this time of the year does indeed create problems for some.

People can experience the mild "winter blahs" to the moderate "winter doldrums" to severe depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

"Seasonal Affective Disorder is very real," Booker said. "We see an increase every year of SAD cases."

For those who suffer from clinical depression, it may mean a little more medicine.

"We have people who know their symptoms," Booker said, adding that is the key ­ knowing the difference from a blue mood and depression.

Booker said anyone who experiences the following symptoms for more than two weeks should check with their physician: excessive fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, little or no desire for things once enjoyed (food, sex, hobbies), either sleeping too much or not being able to sleep, feelings of hopelessness, sadness, thoughts of suicide and difficulty making decisions.

The lack of sunlight mixed with sadness over the loss of someone during the year can be a deadly mix.

SAD afflicts about 10 million Americans, but about 25 percent of the population experiences some sort of winter blues.

Cases of SAD are less prevalent in the South, but they still exist.

Although scientists once thought there was no biological reason for the winter blues, they discovered there was.

Most people understand that many animals hibernate or migrate.

Those seasonal behavior changes in animals involve the light-sensitive pineal gland in the brain. As the days grow shorter, the eyes transmit less light energy along the optic nerve and the pineal gland releases more of the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate behavior.

In some animals, the increase in melatonin suppressed reproduction. Like other animals, human conceptions increase in late summer and fall, meaning that babies are more likely to be born in spring and summer than in winter.