Christmas: a taxing time for mental health

With the full-swing of the festive season almost upon us, magazines, charities and media outlets have been trying to raise awareness of mental health, amid concerns that for some, Christmas can exacerbate depression and anxiety.

Writing in Cosmopolitan magazine, 32-year-old Michelle Lloyd explains how individuals suffering from anxiety disorder can often struggle to come to terms with the ‘overly sociable’ family environment associated with Christmas time.

She writes: “I suffer from social anxiety and, at Christmas, everybody feels you have to be very sociable. You go out more and there are staff parties.

“I have found myself wanting to hide away all the time and not wanting to be happy and joyous.

“It’s difficult for other people to understand because, traditionally, it’s a happy time. You end up feeling guilty because you’re not able to be that person that everyone wants you to be. I’d push myself to go and do things because I felt obliged to, and then end up having panic attacks,” she said.

In some cases, social anxiety and other issues which may hinder peoples’ ability to embrace the social side of Christmas can lead to feelings of loneliness – which can in turn lead to depression.

For others, their living situation or individual circumstances may mean that they are already lonely at Christmas – and such isolation could again spur on further health complications.

Towards the end of November, leading charity Age UK warned that a large proportion of the population were likely to spend 25 December completely alone.

It said that approximately 873,000 over-65s neither see nor hear from a single person for days at a time over the festive break – and that such individuals could be at risk of depression, or further health issues, this Christmas.

It warned that, for elderly people, feelings of isolation can oftentimes contribute to more detrimental conditions such as strokes, dementia and heart problems.