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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Online Dating Depression

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.


Online Dating Depression

Why does online dating sometimes depress me?


Online dating can be exciting, but it can be disappointing when you don’t achieve the type of results you really want. Then again, the depression some daters feel may not have anything to do with the websites. The depression could be related to when you’re using online dating services the most frequently.

The holiday season -- from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day -- is a time when online dating activity seems to spike. Singles tend to have more time off from work at this point, and they can turn their attention to romance. There’s also pressure, subtle or not, from family and friends to find someone special to bring home for the holidays. Indeed, the holiday season is anything but relaxing for many people.

 It’s a sad fact that almosteveryone endures the “holiday blues”to some degree every year – even though the signs and symptoms may be easily overlooked or dismissed. It’s a serious and pervasive phenomenon that psychologists describe as a situational stress reaction related to pressures such as (1) the social demands of family, friends and the wider culture, (2) unmet expectations that can come from a variety of sources and (3) biological stresses such as the lack of sleep or poor eating habits. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that the holiday season can bring anniversaries that have negative associations for an individual -- a past divorce or family death that unfortunately coincided with the holiday season long ago.   

Symptoms of the holiday blues come in many forms, and they can transcend mere feelings of depression or sadness. The variety and severity of these symptoms are often dismissed by those inflicted as simply being an array of unrelated emotions. However, such negative thoughts and feelings are typically related and can cause substantial effects if left unchecked. Below are some progressively more severe symptoms of the holiday blues:

Early Warning Signs (relatively subtle signs that can go unnoticed)

  • Rumination -- a person thinks about a problem for hours but not feel it’s resolved.

  • Loneliness -- a person is surrounded by co-workers, family or friends yet still feels disconnected and alone.

  • Negativity -- a person becomes preoccupied with the upsetting situations and events happening in his or her life.

  • Mental Fatigue -- a person feels like everything he or she does is a chore and an effort.

  • Sleep Disruptions -- a person experiences disrupted sleep cycles or constantly has restless sleep.

Mid-Stage Warning Signs (relatively more pronounced signs that can be easily dismissed or rationalized away)

  • Low Self-Esteem -- a person feels like he or she is unworthy and is unlikable.

  • Social Withdrawal -- a person talks or interacts less than usual with others.

  • Ambivalence or Confusion -- a person experiences increased episodes of indecisiveness.

  • Mental Anxiety -- a person feel generally fearful.

  • Eating Disruptions -- a person eats less or has a poor appetite.

Serious Stage Signs (relatively serious symptoms that should grab your attention)

  • Slight Somatic Complaints -- a person feels a pronounced awareness of physical uneasiness, such as dryness in the mouth or a racing heart.

  • Physical Anxiety -- a person experiences overt physical signs such as difficulty breathing or unusual hand-trembling.

The vast and constant pressure of the holidays comes with an assortment of fatigue, anxiety and depressive feelings. It can be confusing because people are in a rush and these negative signs and symptoms are often sprinkled among positive and upbeat feelings and attitudes. You know that serious holiday blues are impacting you when the negative strain outweighs the positive moods and begin to affect your daily life in clearly antagonistic ways. Some people may need to see a clinician or seek another type of professional support, but there are things that can be done to help combat the blues:

  • Maintain physical activity -- regular exercise naturally helps to promote upbeat moods.

  • Establish a sleep and eating routine -- proper nutrition and adherence to your biorhythm cycles promotes endurance and resilience.

  • Keep regular contact with others that tend to energize you -- most people have specific family members or friends that automatically cheer us up, as well as motivate or energize us. Spending time with these individuals combats pessimism and encourages stress reduction.

  • Make sure your personal spaces are comfortable -- maintaining a sense of control and the familiar is crucial during chaotic times like the holidays. A great way to do this is to decorate your office and home in a way that promotes calmness and keeps you organized. Becoming disorganized is one the fastest paths to negative anxiety.

  • Show proactive optimism everyday -- it sounds corny or cliché but reminding yourself of the good things that happened to you that day every night before you go to sleep can promote positive thinking. Sleep and dreaming are keys to your physical and mental rejuvenation, and thoughts and feelings prior to sleep help to establish how information you’ve acquired that day is processed and stored.


Dr. James Houran's "Office Hours with Dr. Jim" column is published every Monday.

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