Depression, anxiety can carry over after holidays

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com
The decorations have been packed away and the Christmas tree has gone to the attic or the wood chipper.
The holiday season is over, but depression and anxiety disorders that plague millions of Americans can hang on long after December.
According to a 2002 study by the National Mental Health Association, depression affects some 17.6 million Americans during the holidays. Pacific Health Laboratories says holiday blues strike 34 percent of men and 44 percent of women.
"There is a marked increase in the incidence of mental disorders during the holiday season," said Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (TDMHDD) Commissioner Virginia Trotter Betts.
"The holidays can bring on a confusing array of emotions precipitated by any number of reasons. However, you don't have to be helpless and act like a victim."
Mental health experts say melancholy feelings can carry over into January from disappointments of the preceding months compounded by fatigue. However, holiday depression may not simply be seasonal. Depression and anxiety disorders afflict millions of Americans. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that depressive disorders affect approximately 19 million American adults.
Changes in the body's chemistry influence mood and thought processes, and biological factors contribute to some cases of depression. In addition, chronic and serious illness such as heart disease or cancer may be accompanied by depression. With many individuals, however, depression signals first and foremost that certain mental and emotional aspects of a person's life are out of balance.
Additionally, recent NIMH studies show nearly twice as many women (12 percent) as men (7 percent) are affected by a depressive illness each year. At some point during their lives, as many as 20 percent of women have at least one episode of depression, according to NIMH research. While approximately 80 percent of people with depression respond very positively to treatment, a significant number of individuals don't.
Significant transitions and major life stressors such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job can help bring about depression. Other more subtle factors that lead to a loss of identity or self-esteem may also contribute. The causes of depression are not always immediately apparent, so the disorder requires careful evaluation and diagnosis by a trained mental health care professional.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States with 19.1 million (13.3 percent) of the adult U.S. population ages 18-54 affected.
According to "The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders," a study commissioned by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America and based on data gathered by the association that was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year - almost one third of the nation's $148 billion total mental health bill.
More than $22 billion of those costs are associated with the repeated use of healthcare services, as those with anxiety disorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses. People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than non-sufferers.
Afflictions such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder plaque millions of Americans. Women are more than twice as likely to be afflicted than men.
Rape is the most likely trigger of PTSD. Sixty-five percent of men and 46 percent of women who are raped will develop the disorder. Childhood sexual abuse is a strong predictor of lifetime likelihood for developing PTSD. OCD is equally common among men and women. One third of afflicted adults had their first symptoms in childhood.
Women are twice as likely to be afflicted than men for most anxiety disorders. Panic disorder and GAD have high co-morbidity with other disorders including major depression. Phobias (Social Anxiety Disorder, specific phobia, agoraphobia) affect over 10 percent of adult Americans, according to ADAA.