sealPurdue News

December 1997

Holiday blues not necessarily a sign of major depression

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Contrary to popular belief, people are no more likely to become clinically depressed during the holidays than at any other time of year, says a Purdue University psychologist.

"The holidays bring on stress -- and many people feel blue after they are over -- but research doesn't support the idea that the holidays actually cause clinical depression," says David Rollock, associate professor of psychological sciences who oversees the Purdue Depression Clinic.

However, he says holiday stress might push persons bordering on major depression into recognizing how sad and dysfunctional they are. "I distinguish between holiday blues and major depression in terms of depression's greater severity of symptoms and length of duration," he says.

"Depression causes people to feel sad, helpless and hopeless. They lack energy and don't sleep or eat well over unusually long stretches of time." Serious mood disorders, such as depression, tend to result from either personally devastating circumstances or even medical or biological processes.

The Purdue Depression Clinic offers those with major depression an alternative to traditional psychotherapy. "We are teaching people real-life, practical techniques to help them change their behaviors, feelings and thought patterns," he says.

Skills taught include relaxation techniques, constructive thinking, methods for self-change and effective use of social skills. For example, Rollock says people who are depressed have difficulty being assertive. "Thus their social interactions tend to be disappointing, which leads them to cut themselves off from others and begin a cycle of becoming even more depressed," he says.

Rollock says one key to success is teaching these skills in group settings. "Being in a group gives people a chance to work and share with others," he says. "They can be supportive of each other and relate experiences that a psychotherapist may never encounter. It also helps them overcome some of the social isolation."

CONTACT: Rollock, (765) 494-6996; e-mail,

Compiled by Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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