五月病 (Gogatsu byou) literally means “May disease”. This is a “disease” that many people living in Japan suffer from every year in May.
Definition of “May Disease” in Japanese
五月病 (ごがつびょう, gogatsu byou) indicates a feeling of dullness or a lack of motivation that one experiences in May, especially after Golden Week (the end of April ~ beginning of May). Albeit called “May disease”, it is a causal word that describes a low or fatigued state of mind, rather than an actual disease. For instance, the typical symptoms of “May disease” include losing your motivation at work and feeling that you can’t be bothered with anything. As explained below, May disease usually ensues from a rapid change in one’s circumstances, and its serious case is often regarded as a sort of adjustment disorder.
Why “May” Disease?
The main cause of Gogatsu byou is rooted in Japan’s school and employment system. In Japan, April is the beginning of a fiscal and academic year, when new students get enrolled in a new school and many people join a new company. Therefore, a lot of people, both newcomers and old-timers, feel relatively fresh in April and somewhat optimistic about their future. By the next month, however, many people, esp. newcomers confront several difficulties in their new life, realising that it is not as exciting or blissful as they expected. As a consequence, they suffer from “May disease” — they lose the motivation for work or studies that they used to have in April, and feel disappointed at the discrepancy between their expectations and the harsh realities.
For those who experience such negative feelings, Golden Week often acts as the last straw; during the longest national holiday, a lot of people take time off from work or school, some of whom find it difficult to return to their mundane life. At university, for instance, you actually see much fewer 1st-year students wandering about campus after Golden Week.
I don’t feel like going to school these days. This is absolutely Gogatsu byou (May disease).
Don’t register for too many classes in April, as you may have Gogatsu byou (May disease) later.