Blue Monday is not a clinical term or a day officially acknowledged by psychologists, but depression during winter IS. While depression has many forms and can occur during any time, there is a form of depression that is specific to the Winter months -- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
SAD is a biological and mood-disturbing process that's directly linked to changes in the seasons. Kurlansik et al (2013) report that most of the population suffering from SAD (around 5%) feel the effects in Fall, carrying through Winter, with remission occurring in the Spring and even Summer. Symptoms can exist for as much as 40% of the year. But what is SAD, and how can those who suffer from it counteract its effects?
SAD, at its most basic level, is Winter-onset depression. It can be as minor as not feeling like yourself during the colder months -- less motivated, less happy, less interested in going out and doing your favorite things. It can also be a larger change, such as not wanting to get out of bed, not wanting to go to work, or even harmful self-thoughts. If you are familiar with depression and have a history of it, then you may be able to see the similarities between depression and SAD.
Could you have Seasonal Affective Disorder?
While I encourage you to get a proper diagnosis from a professional, you may be able to answer some of these questions to determine if speaking with someone about SAD is the right move for you:
- Have you noticed that your depression typically comes at around the same time of year?
- Does your mood seem directly tied with the weather, especially when days are more overcast or cloudy?
- Do you have a family history of depression?
- Do you find that your "spirits lift" or you feel "like your old self again" when Spring rolls around?