Why can people suffer from mental health effects during Christmas?

Posted: Thu, 16 Dec 2021 16:11

Why can people suffer from mental health effects during Christmas?

Traditionally, the festive period of Christmas is widely celebrated as a time of celebrations, social gatherings, and relaxation before the next year.

For many individuals, this is not always the case. Those suffering with mental health issues may be especially vulnerable or exposed during this time.

The Christmas period often comes with many associated activities or events that can cause additional stress to those struggling with mental health issues.

These stressors are not particular to a specific disorder or diagnosed issue but effect many individuals in different ways.

Consider the following reasons why someone may struggle with mental health at Christmas:

  • Choosing gifts for others – this can cause a lot of stress due to the expectations involved to support others' positive moods (1)
  • Financial worries – associated with buying gifts or providing large amounts of food/drink for Christmas dinners, financial issues are common during the festive period and can cause increased feelings of anxiety for the future
  • Over-eating or consumption – this is common due to the traditionally large meals consumed during this time. This is especially damaging to those struggling with body-image disorders such as bulimia or anorexia
  • Social isolation – though this festive period is often associated with social events and gatherings, those who live alone or away from others may struggle to engage with these behaviours
  • Drinking too much alcohol ­–alcohol is itself a depressant. People often drink to ease mental pain caused by other activities in their lives, and Christmas is often viewed as a 'free-for-all' when it comes to consuming large amounts of alcohol (2)

There are many other reasons why someone may struggle with mental health throughout the Christmas period, but there are some steps that can be taken to make this time a little easier.

Top tips and ways to protect your mental health at Christmas

One of the most common pieces of advice given to those struggling with mental health issues is to communicate with others about their issues.

Talking to a trusted family member or a close friend about what they are experiencing will help the individual to process their emotions as well as letting someone know that they may need support throughout the Christmas period.

Above all, it is important to accept that these feelings are valid – you don't have to be as happy as others appear.

By accepting these feelings and acknowledging their effect on your mental wellbeing is a great way to start coming up with coping methods and techniques.

Taking a break from social media is also a good way to allow yourself some time away from potentially damaging content or people. This will also allow more time for alternative activities such as engaging in exercise or a new hobby.

Finally, it's important to remember to take time for yourself. Excusing yourself from a social event to take some fresh air or collect your thoughts is perfectly acceptable.

Additionally, if you need time away from a place or people, there are hundreds of locally organised events that happen at Christmas time and people that take part in these types of projects are always happy to see new faces.

It's also a great way to meet new people and form new support networks – another great way to improve your mental health and reduce psychological stress (3).

To visualise the information above, and to learn more about mental health at Christmas, take a look at the infographic below:


[1] Kasser, T., Sheldon, K.M. What Makes for a Merry Christmas?. Journal of Happiness Studies 3, 313–329 (2002).

[2] Alcohol rehab clinics Bristol

[3] Greenblatt, M., Becerra, R. M., & Serafetinides, E. A. (1982). Social networks and mental health: An overview. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 139(8), 977–984.

Tags: Christmas, Mental Health Support, Wellbeing