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Sunday Neurosis is a term coined by Austrian psychotherapist Viktor Frankl to refer to an aversion to leisure time, or in particular, Sundays.

Frankl and a Description of Sunday Neurosis

During his years in a Nazi prison camp, Frankl developed his theory of logotherapy, which centers around the search for meaning in life and human existence. Frankl argued that many people attempt to find meaning in the structure and hectic pace of their work lives, and when that structure and pace are gone, a sense of meaninglessness sets in. People suffering from this type of depression begin therefore to hate weekends, vacations, and any other sort of unscheduled free time. You might sometimes see this referred to as the "existential void" or "existential vacuum."

Frankl held that the existential void felt by mankind came from a lack of both behavioral instinct (which was mainly lost when we ceased to be animals) and a lack of traditions or outside behavioral forces, such as religion, parenting, or social norms. Without this guidance, man is forced to make many basic decisions for himself and can feel confused and helpless about how to make those decisions.

Why Sunday Neurosis is a Big Problem

There is a big difference between your average workaholic and a sufferer of Sunday Neurosis. Millions of people out there are dedicated to their jobs, work long hours, or skip vacations, out of some other necessity or simply because they love their work. A person suffering from Sunday Neurosis, however, cannot stand the feeling of being cut off from work. Dreads the thought of having nothing to do. Might even become chronically ill on Saturdays and Sundays. Sunday Neurosis is on the rise in the U.S. because our culture encourages obsession with one's career; some people thrive in a work-heavy environment, and others suffer or develop disorders such as Sunday Neurosis.

This type of depression is painfully prominent in the business world today. In America, workers in 2001 let an average of 1.8 vacation days each go unused; many companies have a use-them-or-lose-them policy regarding personal and vacation days, so many of these workers have essentially opted to take a paycut.

Workers who do take vacations and actually manage to go somewhere out of town tend to take their work with them, in the form of cell phones, laptop computers, and video conferencing technology. Some actually go to the office during their vacation because something "just has to be done." The workaholism extends beyond vacation weeks. Some people take work home with them each and every day, making calls when they are commuting, finishing up tasks or responding to e-mails well past business hours.

Whole bunches of retirees quickly find out they hate retirement. My grandfather was an electrical engineer and a salesman, working and traveling upwards of 60 hours a week for years. He finally retired, and within three months ran out to get a job. He had plenty of money; he told us he just couldn't stand the boredom. I used to work weekend retail jobs, and when I finally got a Monday to Friday job I thought I'd have the best time with my Saturdays and Sundays off. Now I sit around every Sunday with my to-do lists and I don't want to do anything at all. Despite an intense encompassing boredom. My mother tells me "Well, if you're so bored, go do something." Problem is, it's not always so simple. Frankl coined another term, anticipatory anxiety, meaning a person is so afraid of getting certain anxiety symptoms that those symptoms become inevitable. As it happens, sometimes I get so paranoid about being bored that it happens, no matter how many lists I make. I went out a got a waitressing job just to fill up my weekends because I couldn't stand it anymore.

Suicide rates are higher on Sunday than any day of the week. Students engage in frequent binge drinking (there are quite a few explanations for binge drinking, but I maintain that boredom is a major factor). Sunday Neurosis is a big deal because we are losing track of what it feels like to relax and have fun. We work so hard to make all kinds of money so we can have all the wonderful gadgets and cars and houses and things, and when we finally have time to enjoy those things, we can't remember why we bought them or how to have fun with them at all.

A person who is overworked (as a result of being afraid of his/her free time) is more likely to smoke, develop a drug habit, or have weight problems. Overworked people are less capable of communicating with their friends and loved ones, and so their social lives suffer even more than one might expect from having less free time. Far too many marriages fall apart because, amongst other things, one or both parties are too focused on their careers to pay attention to their personal lives.

What Can Be Done?

I first found out about Sunday Neurosis as a high school freshman, when we read Man's Search for Meaning in English class. The light bulb went off. Eureka! I'm not alone! If you feel the same way at any point, I suggest some hardcore Frankl reading before you do anything else; Man's Search for Meaning is a rather fascinating book.

Otherwise, professional treatment for depression, including Sunday Neurosis, is available and can be utilized in conjunction with self-treatment methods. A whole slew of self-help books on themes such as stress and depression can be helpful. Articles are written in many periodicals concerning careers which are quite relevant, such as Ann Humphries' column for www.cnn.com (I refer the reader to http://www.cnn.com/2001/CAREER/corporateclass/06/22/vacations/index.html for a nice little article on the American difficulty of vacationing).


Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this is not professional medical advice.

Sources:

Carey, Elaine. "The Vanishing Vacation." The Toronto Star: August 25, 2001.
Durbin, Chaplain Paul D. "Viktor Frankl's Contributions to Human Trinity Hypnotherapy." HypnoGenesis Magazine.
Schulweis, Harold M. "Serenity Lost." Reform Judaism: 1998.

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