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Valentine’s Day can bring depression

By Paul Huggins
DAILY Staff Writer

phuggins@decaturdaily.com · 340-2395

When Cupid's arrow misses the heart on Valentine's Day, it often strikes a nerve in people who have barely recovered from their December holiday depression.

Severe feelings of loneliness, disconnection and inadequacy are just as common on Valentine's Day as during the season from Thanksgiving to New Year's, and for the same reasons, said Melissa Hambrick, assistant director of the Enrichment Center.

Seasonal pressure

With the Christmas season comes a pressure to be with family and loved ones, and Valentine's brings pressure to have a significant other, she said. Articles in magazines, heart-shaped boxes of candy in stores, jewelry advertisements and a co-worker getting roses are just some of the things that bring feelings of emptiness.

"It's a day that triggers some questioning about their relationships, whether they are complete," Hambrick said.

A licensed professional counselor, Hambrick said about 45 percent of her cases are related to depression and most of her clients report Valentine's Day makes them more depressed. She added that women struggle with Valentine's depression more than men do.

Dissatisfaction

A poll in today's Living Today section reports one quarter of women were not satisfied with their significant other on a past Valentine's Day, compared to 16 percent of men. The poll also showed single women and men are more likely to get depressed than their married counterparts.

But Valentine's Day is not the cause of the depression, Hambrick said, but a vehicle that intensifies sad feelings or causes them to surface.

About 25 percent of people this time of year struggle with Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder, a temporary depression caused by reduced exposure to sunlight. Meanwhile, 20 percent of people have clinical, year-round depression that can result from chemical imbalances in the body.

Either type brings persistent sadness, hopelessness, fatigue, lack of concentration, increased or lost appetite, irritability and lost interests in activities that normally bring pleasure. People tend to cope by overeating or undereating, withdrawing from friends and activities they enjoy, and worrying.

"A lot of people are not aware (they're depressed), so they're not doing anything about it," Hambrick said.

The most important part of treating depression is to be aware of it, she said. There are quick pick-me-ups like exercising and spending time with friends or maybe taking a mental break like a vacation.

Hambrick added it's especially important to share depressed feelings with someone safe and trustworthy. Support groups work well because they surround people with others who experience the same feelings.

When those practices don't work, she said, it's time to seek professional help with counseling and/or medications.

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