Holidays are not always the "merry and bright" events we often expect. For many people, including many Veterans, they can be downright depressing. The holiday season can trigger feelings of mourning, loss or loneliness. For some, episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can surface. For newly returning Veterans, the struggle to readjust to civilian life, find employment and establish social relationships can worsen at holiday time.

Dr. Ken Weingardt, a psychologist now at Northwestern University and previously with theDepartment of Veterans Affairs (VA), puts it simply. "The holidays promote this myth that everyone is having a warm, happy time basking in the love of family and friends. For Veterans who don't have this or are feeling off balance, this contrast creates a huge disconnect that can make them feel worse."

Because they are feeling pressured, Veterans may want to isolate themselves from friends and family. Avoiding emotions about past stressful events can lead to avoiding all emotions. Crowds can make a Veteran feel nervous and on edge, like they have to be on guard. Even when it is hard, being around others for support can improve things. Good help is available if these feelings continue.

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