With the Winter Solstice celebrations just a few days away, experts in the field of mental health have turned their attention to one of the season’s biggest scourges: non-hibernators’ guilt.
“After extinction anxiety, non-hibernators’ guilt is the most common psychological condition we see in the Winter season,” says Dr. Gudrun L. Gibbon, a Park psychotherapist who will also serve as a staff member at The Park’s first Extinction Anxiety Clinic when it opens in January.
The condition, also known as NHG, can affect Animals who remain awake and active during the Winter season, but who have close friends and associates who are hibernators. NHG-affected Animals experience a deep sense of guilt and anxiety, concurrently with happiness, when they attend Park celebrations and important events in the Winter.
The Winter Solstice celebrations, in particular, are difficult for Park Animals. It is around that time that symptoms of NHG begin to occur, says Gibbon.
“These are the first celebrations of the Winter season, the first celebrations that are attended only by non-hibernators. In a way, they set the tone for the rest of the season. The amount of stress this puts on our non-hibernators has, I believe, been underestimated in the past,” she says.
While statistics show the number of Animals treated for NHG rising, experts in the field say the condition is not always easy to diagnose.
“Many of the symptoms of NHG are similar to those of other psychological conditions,” says Dr. Chloris Cougar, a researcher at the University of West Terrier’s School of Medicine.
In fact, some of NHG’s symptoms look remarkably similar to those associated with Feline Unipolar Depressive Disorder (FUDD), one of Dr. Cougar’s areas of expertise. It’s important, however, that we not confuse NHG with other conditions, Dr. Cougar stresses.
“There is some preliminary evidence that suggests a connection between NHG and Sad Cow Disease (SCD), but this is very, very early research and we have to be very careful about making assumptions based on it. SCD is a more complex condition and is much more difficult to treat,” she says.
She likens NHG, on the other hand, to “a stronger variation of normal.”
“It’s natural for Animals to miss those close to them who are in hibernation, especially during times of celebration. But some Animals experience this temporary loss more profoundly than others. Those are the Animals we are concerned about,” she says.
While acknowledging that much further research is needed, the two experts offered this advice, in the meantime, for non-hibernating Park Animals:
“Try to enjoy the Winter holiday season by understanding the dictates of nature. Your hibernating compatriots are not missing out on the fun; instead, they are doing what is necessary for their survival. Soon enough, they’ll be among us again, celebrating other joyful occasions.”