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Interview with Jonathan Adams M.D., a Family Medicine Physician, About the Holidays and Depression

Click here to listen to MP3 file of the interview

Medical Minute: 6:43

Dave Kurten:  The 3WZ Medical Minute is brought to you by Mt. Nittany Medical Center – “Mt. Nittany Life Forward”.  Our guest today is Jonathan Adams, M.D. a Family Medicine Physician.  Thanks for spending some time with us today.

Jonathan Adams:  I’m happy to be here.

Dave Kurten:  Dr. Adams, the holidays are always seen as a joyous time of year, why is depression so prevalent then, this time of year?

Jonathan Adams:  Depression is a significant problem for a number of folks.  It often is interplay between a painful past, problems with the present, and fear of the future.  Now painful past can be things such as unfulfilled expectation concerning either giving in the past where by the child or a close relative doesn’t care for the gift that was received or given.   Family arguments are somewhat legendary during the holidays and unfortunately the news can be filled with of even family violence.  Problems with the present can include: exhaustion, lack of exercise, illness, or injury, inhibiting the ability to plan for the holidays; economic stress with job losses, downturns, cutbacks in pay or benefits; shortened sleep can be a factor in the trouble.  Fear of the future refers to whether the loved one to whom the gift is being given – will they like it?  All of us have perhaps seen a child who unwraps a present on Christmas day only to find that the box that the gift was given in was far more interesting then the gift itself; and perhaps all of us have been guilty at one time or another of not appreciating as much as the giver would’ve expected the gift that was given to us.  For many people with depression, there can be a background condition called, disthimia, which is just a mild condition – people you see perhaps in cartoons with the little, gray, cloud over their head all the time; those folks seem to be more at risk for having holiday depression. 

Dave Kurten:  What are some of the signs and symptoms that indicate professional help is needed?

Jonathan Adams:  Professional help should first and foremost be sought immediately if you’re having such thoughts as wanting to harm yourself or harm others.  If your feelings are really that low, you need to seek help really immediately.  For folks who have milder trouble though out the holiday, it’s certainly reasonable to talk with others, it’s reasonable to wait and see how the feelings are after the holiday has passed, it’s reasonable to perhaps explore the previously mentioned possibility of disthimia – there is a good treatment for that, both talk therapy and counseling, and also medical therapy can be a good help with disthimia.

Dave Kurten:  What are some coping tips that people could use this time of year to ward off depression?

Jonathan Adams:  Great question!  A number of things have been helpful and are recommended.  One is just acknowledging to yourself and perhaps to others how you’re feeling – is it a time of year that you are dreading; is it the time of which you are indifferent, is it a time of which you are looking forward to – simply talking to yourself and others about how you’re feeling is a good first step.  Be realistic with expectations, very few of us have an unlimited budget or income; be realistic with what you are able to do, or purchase, or have the time for as the holiday season approaches.  Another recommendation is, within many families there are grievances to deal with and acknowledge; to the best of your ability, set those aside, set those aside with other family members so that if opportunities for arguments do arise there’s a determination ahead of time to simply say “I think we should discuss that later” and deal with it in that or another more gentler way.  Fourthly, it’s okay to say no.  Limit your spending, be strongly encouraged to not run up credit card debt, that is already an issue, running up additional debt will only add to the sense of let down after the depression when the bills come due.  Holidays can actually be a good time to make a plan to start getting rid of credit card debt.  Fifth, continue or start to do the good things that we all know we should be doing: eat well – get in the 5 servings a day of vegetables and fruits, if you are going shopping at the mall there is always that temptation to stop and buy the hot pretzel and the soda.  Before you leaver to go shopping, make sure your stomachs filled with good food.  Get the exercise you should be doing – 30 minutes a day or so, take time to do that.  Make sure you’re getting adequate rest.  It’s a good idea to set aside some time each holiday season to do something for others.  A number of folks use that time to volunteer in a food kitchen or volunteer with interfaith ministries in town or they volunteer at the homeless shelters; all these good things where you are giving to others, demonstrating your love for others are good things to get involved with.  Next, stay involved; socialize with people, do get together with people, go to services at your house of worship if that is your conviction, get out and go to a concert – high schools and middle schools have concerts that are a wonderful time.  Lastly, plan ahead.  Lastly, plan ahead, decide what really is important.  For some people they would like both to give more, and perhaps receive more; gifts that are hand-made by others and if you have the time and skills, use the time and your skills to do that rather than running up debt or spending lots of money.

Dave Kurten:  And where can community member get more information about depression?

Jonathan Adams:  There’s a great deal of information available on the web, if that is of interest to you; Mt. Nittany Medical Center, if you go to its’ website mtnittany.org has help links on the right hand top of the page and you can, if you type in depression the first link that you will come to is written by one of the staff members at Mt. Nittany Medical Center and deals explicitly with holiday depression.  There are many other web pages as well, dealing with depression. 

Dave Kurten:  Jonathan Adams, M.D. a Family Medicine Physician has been our guest today, thanks for your time and Happy Holidays!

Jonathan Adams:  I’m happy to be here, Happy Holidays to you! 

Dave Kurten:  The 3WZ Medical Minute is brought to you by Mt. Nittany Medical Center – “Mt. Nittany Life Forward”. 


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