Is there such thing as the most depressing day of the year? Rose Gomez takes a look at what the experts have to say about seasonal mood changes and what treatment can help.
More than 10 years ago, a publication coined the term "blue Monday" to represent the most depressing day of the year. The day falls in mid to late January, during the thick of winter. While many could relate to the notion of the winter blues, psychologists say blue Monday isn't a scientific fact.
"Blue Monday is not a real thing it would seem, but depression is a very real thing, and seasonal depressive episodes are also a very real thing, and it's not something to be ignored and to kind of ride it out. There is good treatment for it," said Dr. Logan Hegg, UVM Medical Center psychologist.
Seasonal depression, often called Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a recognized mental health concern. Experts say some symptoms include feeling down, lethargic, losing sleep or having a change in appetite. All symptoms that stem from any type of depression.
"For some it is in fact the winter, sort of fall winter effect and for others there's like a spring-summer variance of this, where due to changes that are related to the calendar and hypothetically related to day length or some of these other factors, it affects their mood. It affects how they feel," said Hegg.
University of Vermont Professor Dr. Kelly Rohan did a study on two types of treatment options for seasonal depression. Half of the 177 people in the study were treated with behavioral cognitive talk therapy and spent 90 minutes twice a week with a therapist. The other half spent at least 30 minutes every morning doing light therapy.
"With light therapy, we're trying to simulate an early dawn to jump-start sluggish, circadian rhythms, and with behavioral therapy we're trying to teach people new ways of responding or coping with the winter season and those are really dramatically different treatments," said Rohan.
Rohan says light therapy patients tended to have more relapses in the two winters following the initial six week treatment period, however she believes both methods are effective options.
"That means he or she has a choice. What's going to be the best treatment for you based on your preferences, what you see is feasible. People tend to like the idea of light therapy, but are you willing to use it every day for winter, and in Vermont, we're talking about what, five months of the year," said Rohan.
Experts say if you think you could be suffering from seasonal depression, it's best to see a professional for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
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