Cultural Insight – Gogatsubyo or May Sickness by Efrot Weiss

Gogatsubyo or May Sickness BestLivingJapanDear Curious and Creative, Gogatsubyo or May Sickness was written by my good friend Efrot Weiss, who is a long-term resident of Japan, and intercultural trainer and coach. Do you know someone who has gogatsubyo or May sickness? How can you improve or help?

Gogatsubyo or May Sickness by Efrot Weiss

As students and workers return to their routines after the Golden Week holidays, some will feel far from refreshed.

The incessant pressure to pass college entrance exams or secure a job with a top Japanese company leaves many young Japanese burned out. The euphoria of April’s new beginnings evaporates, leaving some college freshmen and recently graduated new employees feeling down and unable to sleep or eat properly.

Commonly known as gogatsubyo, or May sickness, the condition is characterized as a temporary adjustment disorder that typically passes after a few months.

“It is normal to experience stress when making a big adjustment, such as graduating from high school, starting college or joining the workforce,” explains Vickie Skorji, the director of TELL Lifeline, a Tokyo telephone counseling and support service. “There is added pressure on the youth of today. The expectations placed on them by society, as well as their expectations of themselves, put them at risk for anxiety disorders.”

According to Skorji, Japanese youth are particularly susceptible to this worldwide phenomenon due to Japan’s academic and fiscal calendar, where these life adjustments all coincide within a period of four weeks. Unfortunately, during this transition, Japan and other countries witness a spike in suicide rates.

“Although early spring represents a whole new beginning for many Japanese, numerous people find themselves not feeling better,” says TELL’s clinical director, Linda Semlitz. “The usage rate of TELL’s counseling services in May reflects that this is a very stressful time. In fact, May is the busiest month of the year for TELL’s therapists, where roughly one-third of the patients are Japanese.”

Skorji says it’s important to develop some coping strategies during this time. “While many Japanese will soldier on, it is important to talk about it, be kind to oneself and give oneself time to adjust to the new situation,” she says, emphasizing the need for sleeping, eating well and exercising.

“Without identifying these stress busters,” adds Semlitz, “things may come screeching to a halt. The person affected will end up taking more days off from work if they don’t take care of themselves. When a person is stressed, it will impact their physical health, sense of well-being, concentration and judgment.”

Experts agree that any anxiety should recede after a few months, and the coping mechanisms can be used again during stressful periods. If the condition continues for more than three to six months, however, seeking professional help is crucial. TELL is always available to help

First published in the May 2014 issue of Tokyo American Club’s monthly magazine, iNTOUCH.


Gogatsubyo or May Sickness by Efrot Weiss


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