Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Depression Health Center

Font Size

New Year’s Blues

Does the end of the year get you down?
By
WebMD Feature

Does this depressing conversation sound like the one you have with yourself sometime between Thanksgiving and New Year's, year after year?

"I didn't take off that 15 pounds."

Recommended Related to Depression

Craving Carbs in Winter: Is It Depression?

If winter weather triggers carbohydrate cravings, you're not alone.  Many people snack more on carbohydrate-containing foods in winter, sometimes in an unconscious effort to boost their mood, says Judith Wurtman, PhD, a former scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of The Serotonin PowerDiet.  How can you tell if your seasonal carbohydrate cravings are in the normal range or a possible symptom of winter depression?  

Read the Craving Carbs in Winter: Is It Depression? article > >

"I didn’t make as much money as I said I would."

"I didn't get that promotion or switch jobs."

"I'm hopeless."

While some people look forward to New Year’s parties and resolutions, others dread this traditional time to take stock and look back on the past year’s accomplishments – or lack thereof.

If you're mildly or moderately depressed already – or perhaps suffer from depression in winter -- all this taking stock of yourself can make things worse, especially if you tell yourself you never measure up.

Here, experts tell WebMD how to understand what may be behind your urge to do become blue and self-critical around the new year – and how to resist the New Year’s blues this time.  

What's With the New Year’s Scorecard?

To look back at the year and what you have done is natural to a degree, says Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, PhD, professor of psychology at Yale University who has researched depression and the habit of rumination -- going over and over your problems and feelings without taking any action to overcome or solve them.

In fact, at the new year, it's difficult not to reassess at least a bit, says Nolen-Hoeksema, the author of Women Who Think Too Much. Surf the net, turn on the television or radio, and there they are -- all those "year-in-review" stories.

"The media goes over and over what happened this year," she says. So it's understandable, to some degree, that many of us do, too.

Soon after the year-in-review shows comes talk about New Year's resolutions -- and any talk about making resolutions invariably means focusing on your shortcomings,  says Edward Abramson, PhD, professor of psychology emeritus at California State University Chico and author of Body Intelligence and Emotional Eating.

To make matters worse, the talk about resolution-making follows a host of holiday occasions -- whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza -- that  rarely live up to expectations, Abramson adds. And some people may blame themselves for that, too.

If you're already depressed, you may rate yourself and your accomplishments lower than others would, Nolen-Hoeksema says.

Ruminators and the New Year’s Blues

If you find yourself assessing and reassessing the year, becoming more and more depressed, you may be a ruminator. Women are more likely than men to have this habit, Nolen-Hoeksema says.

In her research, Nolen-Hoeksema has focused on "ruminators." She describes ruminators as those who go over and over their problems, either in their own mind or by discussing them with others, but have no clear plan to solve the issues. She has found:

  • Those who ruminate also tend to have negative coping styles, criticize themselves unduly and be pessimistic. Ruminating and depression often go hand-in-hand.
  • Recognizing when to stop ruminating is crucial. "Everyone ruminates some," she says. The real difficulty arises, she says, when you realize all the thinking and rethinking about a problem or issue is not getting you anywhere or is making you feel worse -- and still, you can't quit. "People who get stuck in rumination think there is going to be insight by keeping on thinking about it," she says. "They may have more trouble [than others] shifting their attention [to other topics]."
  • Depression can make ruminating worse. If you are already in a depressed mood and get started on a rumination cycle, you'll tend to focus on the worst aspects of a problem, she says. "Rumination and depression are a toxic mix." The rumination feeds the depression and vice versa.  The process is so reciprocal, says Nolen-Hoeksema, that it's difficult to identify sometimes which started it all.

Today on WebMD

Male patient in session with therapist
Article
Depressed looking man
Article
 
mother kissing newborn
Slideshow
depressed woman at work
VIDEO
 
Woman taking pill
Article
Woman jogging outside
Feature
 
man screaming
Article
woman standing behind curtains
Article
 
Pet scan depression
Slideshow
antidepressants slideshow
Article
 
pill bottle
Article
Winding path
Article