Blue Monday isn’t real but seasonal depression is

Health

About 40 million adults (ages 18 and older) are affected by anxiety and depression each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — With the holidays behind us and summer still far away, the third Monday in January is reputed to be the most depressing day of the year. But does that claim hold up?

The concept of “Blue Monday” came from the UK TV channel Sky Travel, which no longer exists, and used data on people booking vacations to determine what they thought was the saddest day of the year.

But there’s no science behind it and researchers say there’s no merit to the idea that one specific day out of the year is more depressing than the other 364.

That said, many people do feel down during winter months, experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called SAD. Technically, SAD can occur with any season and some people experience depression in summer. However, it’s much more common for people to experience seasonal depression related to winter.

Signs of SAD include sleeping more, avoiding social activities and overeating, especially carbohydrates.

As with any mental health disorder, SAD can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, SAD can interfere with daily life or lead to hospitalization.

Women are more likely to be affected than men and Psychology Today estimates 10 million Americans suffer from seasonal depression, with an additional 10 to 20 percent experiencing mild symptoms.

Experts aren’t entirely sure what causes seasonal depression, but one theory is that cold temperatures and lack of sunlight interfere with people’s circadian rhythm and cause depression. The lack of sun may also influence serotonin levels in some people, leading to depression.

Geography is also a factor, with those living farther from the equator more likely to experience SAD.

For those who are experiencing depression, conventional therapy or medication may be used as treatment. Light therapy is also used in SAD, with specific bright lights that mimic the sun used to help simulate the benefits of longer days.

Anyone experiencing serious mental health problems or thoughts of suicide can contact the National Help Hotline at  800-662-HELP (4357) or text 435748 (HELP4U).

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