The Bright Side of the Post-Holiday Blues

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Mellow souls who consider Christmas or New Year’s “just another day” may not be electrifying holiday company. But they’re also least likely to suffer from the “post-holiday slump” that afflicts an estimated 20% of the population, claims a UCLA psychiatrist.

“Those who get into a ‘manic-y’ state between Thanksgiving and New Year’s may be more prone to post-holiday slump,” said Dr. Roderic Gorney, a UCLA psychiatry professor, who defines the condition as a “slightly down mood” that strikes after presents are opened and holiday vacations end.

Less likely to be depressed after the holidays, he finds, are those who take the holidays’ excitement in stride but still manage to enjoy them. Women are especially prone to post-holiday slump, said Irene Goldenberg, a family psychology professor at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute. “Women, in a sense, hold the holidays together,” she said. “They often make the dinner, social arrangements, and so on. When you put in that enormous effort, you expect enormous rewards. There’s an exhaustion and a letdown from the unfulfilled expectations.”


Post-holiday slump is “sometimes a response to old indoctrinations and conditioning that have led one to expect more than is possible from the present circumstances of one’s life or possibly anytime,” Gorney added.

Those who suffer the slump often experience a sense of loss, added Dr. Edward Stainbrook, emeritus USC psychiatry professor. “What we’re losing is a kind of fantasy.”

The good news: Post-holiday slump usually takes care of itself. “Since it comes with the calendar, it goes with the calendar,” Gorney said. “With time, 10 days to two weeks, the sense of zest, interest and pleasure in things will probably come back.”

To quicken recovery, “you might indulge in another fantasy--that of a hopeful, new future,” Stainbrook suggested. “Nowadays there’s a tendency to feel we should never be uncomfortable, physically or psychologically,” Gorney noted. “Maybe the answer is not to fix post-holiday slump, but to learn how to ride it out.”

New Genital Warts Test

A new test to detect genital wart infection, which experts warn has reached crisis proportions and can lead to cervical cancer, may be a useful adjunct to the Pap smear.

The ViraPap test, marketed by Life Technologies Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md., was approved for commercial distribution in late December, said Charles H. Kyper, FDA spokesman.


The test is designed to detect sexually transmitted human papilloma virus, which may infect 1 million Americans and which cannot always be found by other methods. Certain HPV strains are linked to development of cervical cancer, experts believe.

Company spokesmen declined comment on the test, including its availability and price, until later this week.

Who needs the test? “It’s too early to know,” said Dr. Charles M. March, a Glendale gynecologist and USC School of Medicine obstetrics and gynecology professor who suggests women seek their doctor’s advice.

Likely candidates are women at high risk of developing cervical cancer, such as those who have had abnormal Pap smears or multiple sexual partners, he added.

Aspartame and Cravings

January dieters, rejoice: Artificially sweetened drinks may not make you ravenous after all.

A recent New York University study refutes the results of a 1986 British report that suggested aspartame-sweetened drinks left consumers with residual hunger.


In the New York study, 20 volunteers drank plain water or a soft drink sweetened with aspartame, saccharine or sugar, repeating the procedure until each volunteer had sampled each drink. After each drink, volunteers rated their hunger, then were allowed to eat as much as they wanted while researchers logged the food intake.

“None of the drinks affected food consumption,” said Mabel Chan, an associate nutrition professor and one of the NYU researchers who presented the study results at a recent American Dietetic Assn. meeting. Neither water nor any of the artificially flavored drinks affected the reported appetite, she added. “There was a tendency for the subjects who drank the sucrose-flavored drinks to report less hunger.”

Even so, dieters might be wise to select non-sugared drinks, said Karen Kovach, assistant director of nutrition at Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, noting: “The sugar in soda pop adds up. An average 12-ounce can of soda pop has about 8 teaspoons of sugar, which provide about 150 empty calories.”

Health-Conscious Meats

What to serve with those lowered-cholesterol eggs? Some meat manufacturers hope health-conscious consumers will choose their new lower-salt bacon.

About 15 manufacturers, including Oscar Mayer, George A. Hormel and Co., and Armour, now market lower-salt bacon, industry spokesmen estimate. While sodium content varies from product to product, most lower-salt bacons contain about 25% less sodium than regular bacon.

For example, a cooked slice of Oscar Mayer Lower Salt Bacon, introduced in August, has about 85 milligrams of sodium, spokeswoman Barbara Schuelke said.


In comparison, a cooked slice of regular bacon has about 114 milligrams of sodium, said Linda Dahl, a dietitian and president of the California Dietetic Assn. Most dietitians recommend that daily sodium intake not exceed 3,000 milligrams for healthy persons.

Dahl’s advice: “For people without problems such as high blood cholesterol or high blood pressure, these lower-salt bacons might be an option.”

But “there’s not a big difference” in sodium content between the two bacon types, she noted, especially for a typical two-slice serving. “What it boils down for this quantity is taste preference.”

Limiting total bacon intake is also important, she added, because of its cholesterol and saturated fat.