Signs & Symptoms of Holiday Distress

I realize that this is a bit of a downer topic to discuss, however,  I hope this information can help at least one person out there recognize their own or someone else's signs/symptoms and get help. The holidays, even specific dates apart from this time of year, can have people in a funk.  But when does "a funk" become, well, more than a funk?  

According to recent studies and figures, about 18% (40 million) of the United States' adult population have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.  As big as that number is, it is estimated that only one third of those experiencing symptoms actually seek help.  Many times anxiety and depression are intertwined.  When it comes to depression, 6.7% (14.8 million) adults in the United States are diagnosed in a given year.  Just between these two diagnoses, 24.7% of the U.S adult population is accounted for (not adjusting for dual diagnoses).  That is quite a lot of people to say the least.

So when does "stress" become a diagnosable anxiety disorder or when do the "holiday blues" become a depressive episode?  In many forms, stress can be good for us.  Sometimes we stress in order to rush out the door to be on time to an appointment or even stress when we are up late finishing a paper the night before its due.  This stress can be good in that it keeps us motivated and moving.  Not all stresses are created equal though, and people have different thresholds of coping abilities. (Example: While one person is able to multitask, attend multiple gatherings, and keep up with their job; another person may feel fatigued, want to socially isolate, and fall behind at work given the amount of obligations).

What "Typical" Stress Looks Like:

  • More alert
  • Heightened concentration/attention
  • Feeling of adrenaline rush (fight-or-flight response)
  • Tenseness in the body
  • Temporary loss of sleep/more sleep (while exposed to the stressor)

What General Anxiety Signs & Symptoms Look Like:

(3 or more of below for at least 6 months)

  • Feelings of panic, fear, uneasiness, constant worrying
  • Consistent sleeping problems (waking up multiple times in the night)
  • Inability to concentrate
  • An inability to be still and calm
  • Irritability
  • Easily fatigued
  • Muscle tension

***Want to test your stress? Take a quiz to check your stress level:

What Feeling "Blue" Looks Like:

  • Sadness/sorrow 
  • Tearfulness
  • Feeling alone

What Depression Signs & Symptoms Look Like: 

(5 or more of the following for at least 2 weeks)

  • Depressed mood (most of the day, nearly every day) In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood.
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the 
    day, nearly every day
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping nearly every day
  • Bodily agitation 
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt 
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day 
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

If you or someone you know displays the signs & symptoms listed under the anxiety or depression categories, please seek help or encourage them to seek help.  Even if it turns out to be just stress or a case of the "holiday blues," the support you provide them shows you care and that can mean the world to someone.