The holidays can add to your stress level and take a toll on your mental well-being. Our experts -- including two doctors and a licensed psychologist -- are here to help. We will begin answering questions at noon ET.


EDIT: Thank you for joining us today, everyone! We are signing off, but our team will continue to monitor for new questions.

Comments: 211 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

TA_faq4321 karma


webmd27 karma

From your question it sounds like you’re not enjoying much of anything at all, which is understandable if you’re depressed. But, you have other options to consider - when you go out, who do you want to be around? Those are the people to call on to enjoy a conversation with. Could you go for a walk instead of doing something that involves spending money? Exercise is known to help depression. For some people being out in nature, the greenery and sunshine can also help your mood. If you want to stay home, that’s fine too, but I’m concerned about loneliness if you’re alone. I want to encourage you to reach out for professional help so you can feel better and enjoy yourself. Hope this helps. - Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

TA_faq435 karma


webmd4 karma

There are different kinds of psychotherapy - cognitive based therapy may be more helpful to you. I would give it a try. I don’t want you to resign yourself to being alone. Loneliness can be a big component of depression. Consider joining some groups that do what you like to do. Or volunteer at an organization that seems meaningful to you. You might be surprised by the relationships you slowly build over time as you get out and help others. - Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

AgonyofAntigone19 karma

Is it really possible to avoid depression by not eating lots of refined sugar, exercising, and sleeping on a regular schedule in a very dark room? Or is that healthfood store and Google search hooey?

webmd29 karma

This is a great question. There has been a lot of interest in looking at lifestyle changes to help prevent and treat depression and there is more and more research being done in this area - so I wouldn’t call it hooey. :)

The best evidence we have is from several studies that have found that people who ate a diet that was high in processed meat, chocolates, sweet desserts, fried food, refined cereals and high-fat dairy products — were more likely to have symptoms of depression. The good news is that the people who ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fish were less likely to report being depressed.

I know it sounds like this is the same advice to manage all kinds of health problems - but that’s because this type of healthy diet really seems to help for both medical and mental health conditions.

The same goes for having a routine that includes regular exercise and a regular sleep schedule.

- Dr. Neha Pathak

woodbr3004316 karma

I am currently in outpatient treatment for my depression but after the first week I don't feel like I'm getting any better. I actually am feeling worse than last week. I don't feel like I'm getting anything out of group any more. Should I stick it out and see if anything gets better or should I try to seek other treatment options?

webmd25 karma

Hi there, I’m glad you’re getting treatment for your depression! It’s an important first step. It’s not uncommon to feel worse after you start therapy whether it’s a result of getting used to new meds, or confronting issues in talk therapy. It’s important if you feel worse where you are thinking about hurting yourself to speak with them asap. But in general, I would let your doctors and therapists know how you feel and ask them for guidance on what in your therapy can be tweaked to help you. It can take a few weeks for you to feel much better. Hope that helps. - Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

enor_musprick10 karma

Do you think all of this technology (in particular smartphones) is having a negative affect on mental health? How do you see it playing out on the newer generations who are constantly looking at their phones from such a young age?

webmd11 karma

This is a great question and something that a lot of parents and school systems are dealing with. Technology has the ability to help us tremendously- for example, we can stay in contact with friends and family that live very far from us, keep track of our exercise routines, figure out exactly how much sleep we are getting.

But it also has the potential to reduce the time we spend in developing fulfilling and meaningful relationships. This seems to be especially true for young children, where data show that more screen time is actually changing the way their brains work. It will take some time to know exactly what the health effects of this will be in the future, but we do see some studies showing higher rates of depression in teenagers and young adults than in past generations.

If we use technology to help find ways to connect in “real life,” this can add to our ability to form connections. As policy makers, parents and teachers, we need to find ways to foster “intelligent use” of newer technologies.- Dr. Neha Pathak

sol0dolo10 karma

I've been struggling with anxiety and depression since I was a pre-teen. Now, at 21, I'm surviving but have yet to seek any professional help. Now, I want to take control. My problem is finding a talk therapist. This task is daunting for someone with social anxiety who is used to just sliding by. Where do I begin?

webmd4 karma

I’m so glad you’re ready to take control! Are you in school or working? Colleges often have counseling centers where you can go for an evaluation. Also, your health insurance should have a number to call for mental health services. These two groups can guide you to talk therapists that are available near you. And if you have a regular doctor be sure and ask her/him for mental health practices they recommend. As you get a list of providers you can go to, you can look more closely at the types of therapy provided and see what works for you. - Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

HarcourtHoughton9 karma

What tips would you provide for someone interested in Psychiatry? Currently in High School.

webmd5 karma

It’s never too early to think about future careers! I would recommend looking for volunteer/internship opportunities that seem interesting to you that allow you to see real world jobs in the field. Reach out to talk to others in the field - psychiatrists with medical school degrees, and psychologists with master’s and PhD degrees. - Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

RedditPrat6 karma

Two of my relatives disagree politically, and they tend to argue when they're together. I've tried gentle persuasion to stop the arguments, which can put a cloud over family get-togethers, but that doesn't help. And arguing back or taking sides only adds to the problem. Not inviting one or both seems the only way to avoid this, but I'd like to see my whole family together, if that's possible.

Any advice?

webmd9 karma

This definitely sounds like a tough spot to be in, and sadly pretty common these days. I am sorry that you have to consider such a tough decision. Have you set ground rules for all of your family members before previous get togethers? It might be helpful not to single anyone out, but to send a loving message to all that are invited to let them know how excited you are to see everyone. Then you could introduce some “ground rules” with set “outcomes” if they are broken. For example, first one to break a ground rule has to put a dollar in a jar. This might help lighten the mood if someone just can’t help themselves. :) I think I might try that myself this year. Good luck!! - Dr. Neha Pathak

RedditPrat6 karma

No, I've never thought of ground rules, and I think the money penalty could be a big help. I'll give those a try. And I think my siblings would be willing to help come up with some rules.

Many thanks!

webmd3 karma

You are very welcome!!! Wishing you a happy and peaceful family gathering :)- Dr. Neha Pathak

Chtorrr5 karma

Are there any common misconceptions about mental health and the holidays you'd like to clear up?

sethgillihan5 karma

I don’t know how common this is but there can be the belief that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I think of it kind of like having a baby, in the sense that there are all kinds of expectations for how amazing and beautiful it will be and how we’ll be over the moon. Those things might happen, but the holidays (and having a newborn) can be extremely stressful, lonely, overwhelming, etc. So knowing what we might be in for as we head into the holidays can help us manage our expectations, and to plan accordingly.

webmd3 karma

It seems that any time period that is associated with a lot of expectations can be stressful- whether it’s summer vacation, a big family wedding, or big work event. This can be particularly true around the holidays, because we are all going through this “high expectation” phase together. The same tips that work to help decrease our stress and anxiety, throughout the year, work well during this time as well. Stick to a schedule, stick to a budget, stick to a diet (with a little bit more slack for holiday treats) and enjoy time with family and friends! - Dr. Neha Pathak

Forever_Pancakes3 karma

So sometimes I will just be breathing and I will get a sharp stabbing pain in my lungs and I can’t breathe in or out fully. I’m forced to take shallow breaths and it eventually goes away on it’s own. I try and make it go away by poking my ribs, stretching and turning but it doesn’t seem to do much. I have had xrays done before(unrelated) and they didn’t find anything.

What is happening?

webmd4 karma

It can be really concerning when you feel a pain somewhere, especially when it keeps coming back and no one can give you a clear answer about why it’s happening. There are a lot of reasons that you may be having this recurring pain, and most of them are not a cause for concern. A lot depends on your age, other medical problems, and other history in terms of figuring out what may behind your symptoms. The best way to get to the bottom of it is to speak with your doctor about when your symptoms are happening, how often, where exactly you are feeling the pain. An x-ray is a great tool for looking at bone issues, but won’t help evaluate for other problems. Based on your story, your doctor will be able to help reassure you or evaluate further if necessary - Dr. Neha Pathak

gamer87123 karma

My wife lost both her parents in her 20s (shes now in her 30s) and usually struggles to feel good around the holidays. Is there anything she or I can do to help make it more enjoyable (esp since we now have a toddler and an infant in our lives to make the season even better)? Thanks!

webmd8 karma

I’m so sorry to hear about your wife’s struggles. It’s tough to go through the holidays when loved ones are gone. I would start by asking her what she could use from you to help her through the holidays. Whether it’s help planning for events so that she can enjoy them, and leaving time for her to be on her own if that’s something she needs. I'd also talk with her about starting new traditions with your young family that incorporate memories from her childhood. And I’d encourage her to consider talking with a therapist about the grief she feels. I hope this is helpful. Take care - Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

nroth213 karma

I just wanted to thank you guys for doing this. As a former 911 operator the holidays were always hard. It’s when the most suicides would occur and we’d have so many more depressed individuals call and just need someone to talk to than usual. So, thank you.

I need to ask a question though, so what’s your favorite holiday food?

webmd2 karma

Thank you so much for joining us today! My favorite holiday food is freshly baked, homemade sugar cookies. :) I rarely cook, so my daughters and I love to do this together!! - Dr. Neha Pathak

webmd1 karma

Thank you for your work as a 911 operator! My favorite holiday foods are from Thanksgiving - I love cranberry sauce smothered with cornbread stuffing! - Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

dingwyf3 karma

I gained 40lbs in the last year from stress and depression. I want to work out to lose it, but every time I try, a wave of guilt and anxiety comes over me - like I’m subconsciously scared to workout? I’m guessing because that’ll make me happier and I’m not “allowed” to feel happy. How can I bypass this?

webmd3 karma

You have already taken a major step to improve your health by deciding that you want to change. I will share with you that I have a similar struggle with knowing I need to change certain behaviors (I eat a lot of unhealthy food), getting to the point of making a plan (I’ve bought a cook book and circled recipes that I want to make), and then finding that there is something holding me back from actually following through.

We can both celebrate the fact that we know we want to make a change. For me, the next step is to focus on the behavior I want to change -- instead of focusing on the thoughts that are holding me back. Last weekend, I went to the grocery store and bought all the ingredients for my recipes and I actually cooked meals and fed them to my family!!!

Now I’m motivated to build on my success without having spent the time focusing on thoughts that may have held me back.

So my advice is to focus on one goal per day to actually complete it. If you feel like you may need a coach in this process to help build in the accountability, consider working with a talk therapist to help you with the process. - Dr. Neha Pathak

Sargent_Caboose2 karma

How do you guys feel that most people generally look down on WebMD? Do you ignore most of the hate that comes your way or do you understand why it comes but that’s the users fault not your own? I at least appreciate the work you guys do so thanks!

webmd2 karma

Thank you so much for joining the discussion today, we are very happy to be here. Our mission is to help people understand health information so that they can live their best lives. We try to cover a broad range of topics, and always ensure that the information is medically reviewed by a team of doctors to ensure the accuracy of WebMD’s information. This includes our full-time staff of doctors as well as over 100 health professionals that work with us all over the country. - Dr. Neha Pathak

theserpentsmiles2 karma

I recently moved to a new region in the US. And I'm in between insurances while I've switched jobs. How do I get my psych meds refilled, especially when my Doctor refuses a refill without a visit?

webmd4 karma

Have you called and told your doctor your situation? That you’ve physically moved locations and can’t visit, plus you no longer have insurance. He may consider giving you a few weeks of medicines to tide you over until you get insurance. Another option is to go to a free clinic in your new location with your prescription bottles in hand (this is very important!) and explain your situation. A provider there may also give you a refill for a few weeks until you start with a regular doctor. In the Atlanta area, for example, there’s the Good Samaritan Clinic plus a few others. Once you have the prescription in hand you can search online (or ask at the free clinic) for prescription drug assistance programs. Publix grocery store, for example, gives some medicines for free. So while you may not be able to get all your meds filled at a discount there may be some that are on the list. Good luck! - Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

R4D62 karma

What happens to someone who just lost a job and their insurance, cannot afford COBRA, they are waiting 2-3 weeks for a decision from the state on low-cost/free health insurance, can't afford to see a psychiatrist, can't afford medications, don't have any family or friends that can support them financially, have a disability, can't figure out how to apply for social security, etc...what are they supposed to do?

webmd2 karma

I am so sorry to hear about your situation. And you are so right, there is no good answer to your question. Sadly, we don’t have a great system to help people in this circumstance.

If there doesn’t seem to be financial support that you can lean on, do you feel like you can rely on your family and friends for emotional support?

Have you been able to reach out for help through online support groups for those with a similar medical condition? Sometimes, online support groups can provide resources for care but can also help with the application process for benefits like social security and disability.

I know that this advice is very limited, but I hope it helps in a small way. - Dr. Neha Pathak

R4D61 karma

Thanks for the response Dr. Pathak. Thankfully my parents have supported me financially and paid for my treatment and meds. I'm also halfway through my MBA program and still struggled with the application. I got locked out for 5 days because I answered a question incorrectly. It is just sad to think about the people who fall through the cracks, don't have support, and don't receive the treatment they desperately need. I agree that the system could be improved. Thank you.

webmd3 karma

I totally agree with you. Best of luck with your MBA application! Even in the face of your difficulties, it seems like you (with the loving support of your parents) are still pushing forward to make a life change. - Dr. Neha Pathak

FriendSafariSwag2 karma

What would you say about concerns on self-diagnosis using your website? I know it says not to do it and consult a doctor, but surely you know there are people doing this? And are you supposed to be giving medical advice under the company name on Reddit? I know the post is well-meaning but it immediately raises some red flags.

webmd3 karma

These are thoughtful questions! At WebMD our mission is to “enable people to live better lives by empowering decisions and actions that improve well-being and health outcomes.” In today’s Reddit AMA, we’re not diagnosing people with medical conditions, or giving out treatment recommendations. From our work at WebMD we know mental health is an important topic, especially around the holidays and we want to give people a place to start talking, whether it’s changes they make themselves, or encouraging them to reach out for professional evaluation. -Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

DataRapist2 karma


webmd5 karma

Ha ha! She must’ve thought you were tucked up in your bedroom, fast asleep! I think that might put you on the naughty list -- you may stop getting Santa gifts if your parents know you’re in on the secret! -Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

medic_throwaway12342 karma

As a medic/officer and being in fire and ems close to 20 years I for sure have PTSD/ depression along with the occasional panic attacks. The SSRIs never seem to do much of anything and while I hate taking them unless I have no choice,klonopin leaves me feeling shit the next day. Any recommendations to ask my PCP about? I’ve been told to look at CBD flower(non-thc)to replace klonopin potentially but I’m on the fence as medical MJ was just approved in my state and there’s obviously no way I could stay in my field of if I was prescribed something like that. Basically I’m trying not to self medicate by drinking like I used to.

webmd2 karma

Thank you so much for your service to your community.

I am so sorry that you are struggling with these conditions. It sounds like you have a good relationship with your primary care doctor and have tried a few medication options. Besides SSRIs and Benzodiazepines, there are several other classes of medications that can also be tried. It might be a good idea to talk to your PCP about referral to a mental health specialist. Mental health specialists have a variety of tools to diagnose and treat beyond medications to help with PTSD, panic attacks, and depression.

You are absolutely right to avoid using alcohol to self-medicate. It sounds like you have worked hard to change that behavior. This must have taken a lot of strength, and it is a great idea to channel that strength to continue to improve your life.

Though there is a lot of interest in CBD products, it is only medically approved for certain types of seizures right now, and more data is needed to understand its effects on mood.

If you are looking for natural therapies also consider lifestyle changes like exercise and eating a whole food-based diet. Making these kinds of changes can also help with other medical conditions like preventing diabetes and heart disease.

Good luck!! - Dr. Neha Pathak

gold_blushin1 karma

What can I do to not get stressed out about not having a post-grad job yet? I graduate this week and I know 20 different people are going to ask me about it.

webmd2 karma

Congratulations on your graduation! Enjoy the moment and don’t let anyone get you down! I recommend having a canned response that pivots to another topic ready to go. Maybe something short and sweet -- ‘I have some options up in the air but nothing to talk about today. I’m enjoying today’s graduation! How about you? How are you?’ Be straight with the nothing to talk about today, and hopefully they will respect you on that. Hope this helps. -Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

teddiric1 karma

I struggle with anxiety, and googling symptoms that may be transient, or even caused by anxiety, often lead to directly to “you have cancer.” I’m an otherwise healthy 30-ish year old person, and I know it’s likely just the anxiety. What’s the best way to cope with this? When do you know that you should actually be concerned and see your GP?

webmd2 karma

I wouldn’t overthink it. Go see your doctor. Think through the symptoms you’re having, write down what concerns you, and take it with you when you see the doctor. If it is anxiety, it’s still a worthwhile visit. You and your doctor can decide what next steps should be to get your anxiety under control. Good luck! - Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

rabidvet1 karma

What are your thoughts on the positive psychology movement?

webmd1 karma

My understanding of the focus of positive psychology is to study and learn more about the ways in which we can increase happiness. This has a huge role in helping us as we think about ways to combat the growing “epidemic” of loneliness, social isolation, increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with depression and other mood disorders. The core of the movement is really to think about ways in which we find purpose and meaning in our lives. By valuing ourselves as individuals the hope is that we can create meaningful connections with our loved one and our communities.

I think a focus on these things is especially important in our current, fast-paced, technologically driven culture. - Dr. Neha Pathak

lilkersch1 karma

Hi guys! During the holidays, I feel my anxiety worsen due to interactions with family members. Most of the year I keep my distance due to thier narcissism and negativity, that is often a burden. This time of year it is hard to communicate plans and activities with. Do you have any advise on how to deal with the difficulty of family during the holiday season?

webmd2 karma

I hear you. It can be very difficult being in close quarters for extended periods with others who are negative. It’s an important first step that you recognize this is a trigger of anxiety for you. Have you considered your own personal boundaries when you are interacting with your family? You may want to create personal ground rules that will keep you in a “safe zone” and actions you can take if you feel that a boundary has been crossed. Having this planned out ahead of time may help you safely navigate the time you spend with your family. - Dr. Neha Pathak

goingmyway1 karma

I’ve heard people recommend vitamin D supplements to help with mood during the winter months were there’s little to no sun exposure for weeks on end, is that true?

webmd2 karma

There have been some studies that show that low levels of Vitamin D have been associated with with people that have depression, but it is not clear that supplements actually helps to improve or prevent it. For patients with mild winter depression (what a lot of people have heard of as SAD, seasonal affective disorder), light therapy is considered a safe treatment. There are specific ways to obtain the light treatment, so you’ll want to talk to your doctor about those recommendations. And there is evidence that daily walks outside may be helpful even on cloudy days. - Dr. Neha Pathak