The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and togetherness. Unfortunately for many people with autism, the holidays can create extra stress. Holiday stress can then trigger or exacerbate depression. It’s important for family members and friends to be on the watch for signals of depression. Since people with autism can have a hard time expressing emotions, they’re especially dependent on others to help them recognize signals of depression and develop coping strategies.
Signals of depression for all people include dramatic increase or decrease in appetite or sleep needs, consistently negative thought patterns, despair, irritability, or a lack of interest in physical appearance. For people with autism, depression might manifest as an increase in self-harm behavior (like hand-biting), an increase in tantrums or violent behavior, or find everyday tasks harder to perform, especially in different environments.
Sometimes people can cope with depression through more regular sleep and exercise, healthy eating, prayer or meditation, or finding a hobby or social outlet. It’s important for family and friends of people with autism to respect the need for those things, even in the midst of holiday obligations. Sometimes knowing that others struggle with depression can help a person cope with it.
Face Value Comics include characters and stories about depression. When anyone notices signals of depression, whether the person with autism or a friend or relative, that’s a sign to slow down. During the holidays, that may mean turning down some invitations or having more subdued decorations. It’s better to have a quieter holiday season than a frantic series of events leading to depression.