The winter holiday season is traditionally known as a joyful time of the year but for those living with a mental illness, this season can be filled with added stressors. According to a survey from 2014, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that approximately 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness found that the holidays made their condition “a lot” worse and 40% “somewhat” worse.” Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is believed to occur with decreasing amounts of sunlight and lower temperatures during winter and fall, thus, resulting in feelings of depression. Seasonal affective disorder typically continues beyond the holiday season and can be just one of the factors that might contribute to an increase in depressed mood during the holiday season. Other factors include:

  • Added financial pressures
  • Excessive social commitments
  • Unrealistic expectations

Physical and emotional symptoms might surface in response to these added pressures which include headaches, excessive drinking, and overeating. Several ways to manage the anticipated stressors of the holidays include sharing the responsibility of holiday tasks, spending time with supportive and caring people, and making time for yourself.

It is important for individuals, friends, and family members to recognize these signs and seek additional support if needed. Counseling and support groups can be especially helpful in relieving some of the holiday burdens during this vulnerable period of time. For more information on mental health services and support groups that the Hope and Healing Center & Institute offers please call (713) 871-1004 or visit



National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2014, November 19). Mental Health and the Holiday Blues. Retrieved from


Liz Hughes

Mental Health Intern