Depression in Christmas; "I Saw, in Gradual Vision through My Tears, the Sweet, Sad Years, the Melancholy Years, . . ." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), British Poet. Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850)

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THE Victorian poet continued, "Those of my own life, who by turns had flung a shadow across me," and while this is English of another time, it's clear that it's a reference to depression. Right here and now, it's a week before Christmas eve and I'm writing about clinical depression?

It may not be as unrelated as you think.

Definition. Depression is not mere sadness. Just about everyone gets "the blues" once in a while; others a little more often than others. But the cause of sadness is usually unearthable - an unfortunate event, an accident, a slight, failing grades, a nasty marital fight - and proximate. If you will ask a psychiatrist, the good clinician will agree that Christmas is a classic trigger to a major depressive illness. In this season, there is the heightened expectation of happiness and excitement. After all, it is the time of reunions and all-night partying. If the anticipation leads to nothing or disappointment, the depression-prone individual suffers. Christmas to her becomes miserable. Sensitive souls feel the emptiness of gift-giving and the crass materialism that goes with it. Others find the tiangge (flea market) shopping ("All that OFW money!") and traffic intolerable. Still others are deeply affected by jarring pictures and footages of Super typhoon Reming victims in Bicol ("How can you even think they'll have a Christmas?").

Symptoms and Signs. Are you depressed? In major depression, the person is affected to an extent that his work and private life are all but impaired. Duration is critical because normal dejection lasts for a few days before the person somehow snaps out of it. In real depression, the condition carries on for more than two weeks. A man or woman suffering from clinical depression must exhibit five out of the following nine symptoms, including one of the first two listed:

* depressed mood

* loss of interest and pleasure in usual daily activities (anhedonia)

* loss of appetite and weight changes (loss or gain)

* insomnia or hypersomnia (too little or too much sleep)

* restlessness or sluggishness

* profound fatigue

* feelings of worthlessness or guilt

* inability to think clearly, make decisions, or complete tasks

* thoughts of death or suicide. …