...with Faye Brookes 20 January 2014

Blue Monday

January supposedly hosts the most depressing day of the year according to the pseudoscience of Blue Monday.

The day falls on the third Monday of January and is calculated using a number of factors, including unfavourable weather conditions, time since Christmas, the ability to pay off debt, peak time for breaking New Year resolutions and length of time until the sun starts shining again. However, is there any truth behind this so-called calculation?

It is true that external circumstances, like those surrounding Blue Monday, can impact our internal environment. This can happen quite literally in seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that begins in darkening autumn but wanes as daylight hours increase towards summer. Furthermore, as Blue Monday suggests, life stressors can also affect our mood. Anxieties surrounding money and work are often part of depression’s web. As regards breaking New Year resolutions, having a conflicting sense of unfulfilled motivation can be uncomfortable to sit with and may also feed into depression. The core triad of depressive symptoms is suggested to include low mood, loss of enjoyment and loss of energy, which corroborates with Blue Monday.

There is seemingly some truth behind the infamous Blue Monday and its links with depression. Depression in the clinical sense is a low mood that affects one’s ability to function adequately; it can comprise a variety of symptoms ranging from physical to social to emotional. Some people may feel restless and agitated whereas others may not feel like moving at all. Likewise, other contradictory symptoms may occur like insomnia or sleeping for much longer than usual. Equally, suffering from low mood that is having a negative impact without any of these symptoms is something to be discussed with a professional; GPs can provide support and advice.

Imperative also is the notion that depression can occur at any time, to anyone; however, those who have recovered from an eating disorder are at a higher risk of suffering depression in their lifetime. External events may contribute but depression may be due to thoughts one is having or negative behaviours one is engaging in. Equally it can be a combination of factors that cause depression, which is more frequently the case. Often depression can occur together with other mental health problems and can be an issue for eating disorder sufferers in particular. Those suffering from an eating disorder are statistically more likely to be suffering from depression as well, though the exact link is unclear.

It is important to seek professional advice and support if you feel that you or a loved one is suffering from low mood, depression or depression linked with an eating disorder or other condition. GPs can advise about anti-depressant medications, which are well tolerated and effective and also psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Mind provides information, advice and support for both sufferers and care-givers about causes, symptoms and treatments. If you have noticed any symptoms in yourself or in a loved one then you can contact your GP or see the link below for Mind’s ‘useful contacts’. Alternatively, if you or a loved one is feeling unsafe, seek support at your local A&E.

For more mental health advice and support, visit Samaritans or Sane Line. For a CBT self-help book, try reading ‘Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think’ by Dr D. Greenberger and Dr A. Padesky.

Faye Brookes

Assistant Psychologist

Faye Brookes is an Assistant Psychologist at Vincent Square Eating Disorder Service