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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Interracial Relationships | Depressed Around Holidays

Quick Access:
Can Interracial Relationships Work?
Overcoming Depression Around the Holidays?

Can interracial relationships work?


Yes, they can, but don’t think they’re ever easy. No relationship is easy when differences are at play that the broader society, or segments of that society, feels are relevant. Let’s get to specifics. I've done some focus group research on this topic concentrating on younger people (~35 yrs old and less). What I found was a bias in society’s perception of such couples, but the bias changed depending on the interracial mix. For example, a “black woman with a white man” was rated substantially more acceptable by both blacks and whites than a “white woman with a black man.”

Why?  The major stated reason for the discrepancy had to do with the perception of young black males. That is, black males were perceived by both men and women to be less emotionally stable and less financially stable. By contrast, white males were perceived as offering better emotional and financial security. So, bias against interracial couples, at least in part in some instances, seems to derive from perceived power and security-stability issues.

My tips: Based on the above, black men who want to make a positive impression on the parents or friends of their significant others -- and are perhaps meeting for the first time -- should dress and act in a way that is more conservative and conveys a sense of maturity and financial responsibility. In other words, black men should ask themselves if what they wear and how they behave may contribute to a negative impression of how they’ll conduct themselves in a relationship. Addressing this will help relieve unspoken cynicism and anxiety related to emotional and financial issues that a woman's social circle of influence can have. This unspoken cynicism can tear couples apart slowly or quickly, but it almost has a negative effect.

Couples often need to fight for their relationship – social classes, income levels, age and race – all impact the way a couple is treated by their family, friends and others in the society. You and your partner have to work through these issues first, so you can establish a “couple identity” and a strong sense of solidarity. Without that, those negative social pressures can overwhelm you and sabotage your bond.

Is it normal to feel depressed around the holidays if you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend?

If you’re feeling extremely sad or lonely during the holidays, you’re certainly not alone. A recent review documented increases in dysphoric moods (low-level depression) around holidays4, and other research has found a significant increase in emergency contacts at a rural mental health clinic coinciding with holidays6. Increases in deliberate (but non-fatal) self-harming behavior at a London hospital on Valentine’s Day did not reach statistical significance in one study2, but the reported that the rates of parasuicide among adolescents on this holiday were significantly increased3. Finally, one expert1 described “holiday blues syndrome” as a situational stress reaction related to social demands, unmet expectations and biological stressors such as lack of sleep. The proposed interventions involve reducing the specific stressors associated with the holidays and taking advantage of the support and coping mechanisms available to the person battling these depressive feelings. These suggestions are similar to those of other experts5, who discussed how the “holiday blues” have great potential for being associated with anniversary reactions.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know if “blue” feelings are simply stress or the start of something of more serious. Read the statements below about certain thoughts and feelings and consider how often in the past two weeks you’ve experienced them:

  • I was bothered by things that usually don't bother me.    
  • I did not feel like eating.                                                            
  • I felt that I could not shake off the blues even with help from my family or friends.
  • I had trouble keeping my mind on what I was doing.                                   
  • I thought my life had been a failure.                                                
  • I felt fearful.                                                                      
  • My sleep was restless.                                                               
  • I was happy.                                                                          
  • I talked less than usual.                                                            
  • I felt lonely.                                                                       
  • People were unfriendly.                                                               
  • I enjoyed life.                                                                      
  • I had crying spells.                                                                 
  • I felt sad.                                                                           
  • I felt that people dislike me.                                                       
  • I could not get going.                                                                
  • I felt scared without any good reason.                                               
  • I felt I was close to panic.                                                         
  • I was worried about situations in which I might panic and make a fool of myself.     
  • I experienced trembling (e.g., in the hands).                                        
  • I experienced breathing difficulty (e.g., excessively rapid breathing, breathlessness.

If the answer to these is “most of the time” – say five to seven days out of the two weeks – you very well might have the holiday blues and need to see someone to help.

Related Links:
» Interracial Dating


1Baier, M. (1988). The ‘holiday blues’ as a stress reaction. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care 24: 64-68.

2Culham, S. J., Catalan J., Berelowitz, K, O’Brien, S., et al. 1993. Deliberate self-harm and public holidays: is there a link? Journal of Crisis Intervention & Suicide 14: 39-42.

3Davenport, S. M., & Birtle, J. (1990). Association between parasuicide and Saint Valentine’s Day. British Medical Journal 300: 783-784.

4Friedberg, R. D. (1990). Holidays and emotional distress: not the villains they are perceived to be. Psychology 27: 59-61.

5Goin MK. Practical psychotherapy: what is it about the holidays? Psychiatric Services. 2002;53:1369-1370.

6Sobel, S. N., Anisman, S., & Hamdy, H. I. (1998). Factors affecting emergency service utilization at a rural community mental health center. Community Mental Health Journal 34: 157-163.

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