People get depressed during the holidays, and there’s plenty of research to back this up.

The more interesting questions are how and why that’s the case. We also want to know what (if anything) can be done about it.

As it turns out, there’s research on that topic too, and the answers may surprise you. It turns out to be more than just cold weather and less sunlight.

Depression is a broad term and can mean different things to different people, so let’s break it down into specifics. The most common feelings that those who wrestle with depression suffer from during the holiday season include sorrow, anxiety, and feeling lonely. However, these feelings aren’t constant. They are intermingled with periods of genuine happiness and holiday joy, which in some ways makes the negative feelings even worse.

Experts tell us that one of the biggest root causes of the holiday blues is unrealistic expectations. Interviews with people suffering from holiday depression reveal that most depressed people are comparing the current holiday season with one they remember from their childhood.

Unfortunately, time has distorted those memories and the depressed individual usually winds up mentally exaggerating their former holiday seasons. This is to such a degree that the actual, day to day experience can’t hold a candle to the myth the person holds in their mind.

That, combined with the fact that depressed people tend to believe that everyone else is having more fun and a much better time than they are. It sets the stage a perfect storm of negativity we shorthand to “The Holiday Blues.”

If you’re feeling depression encroaching on your mood this holiday season, don’t wait to do something about it. Call your doctor and talk about it openly to get a good recommendation and a referral to an appropriate expert.