Bouts of depression frequently follow the festivities of the holiday season, says a psychologist at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

The holiday emphasis on family relations can be overwhelming for those whose familial ties are unfulfilling, said Esther Lockart, clinical health psychology resident and staff psychologist at the hospital.Lonely people or those with troubled family histories are most susceptible to post-holiday depression, Lockart said.

"They're just bombarded by happy-family, fairy-tale type stuff," she said. Because of that, people are constantly reminded that their holiday expectations are unfulfilled.

Most of them have a "family history of not having good memories of Christmas," she said.

Depression may show itself through social or emotional withdrawal, appetite changes or unexplained sleepiness, Lockart said.

Most people get over the holiday blues quickly, but if symptoms persist for more than a couple of weeks, they should seek help, Lockart said. Talking things over and realizing the source of depression is the way to end it, she said.

A few people reach the "why go on living?" stage, Lockart said. At this point, any talk about suicide should be taken seriously. Deeply depressed people should seek professional help immediately, she said.

Those with friends or family suffering from post-holiday depression should give them increased attention.

"Talk to them; spend time with them," she said.

Lockart said she helps those who come for therapy realize that they control their destiny.

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"Your thought causes your dysfunction," she said. Once people start thinking positively they are more likely to come out of depression, she said.

Therapy for post-holiday depression is becoming more common as mental disorders begin to lose their social stigma, Lockart said.

Those suffering depression should not fear seeking professional help, she said, and sufferers should realize that most depression is temporary when dealt with properly.

"Depression has been tagged as the common cold of mental illnesses," she said.

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