S.A.D ~ Seasonal Affective Disorder in Summer
While the season of summer still has more than a few weeks to go, the reality of summer is quickly coming to an end. School will be starting soon, parents are out shopping for their kids’ new clothes and school supplies already, and college students are preparing for their annual return to campus. Summer depression has a different clinical presentation than the winter blues. In winter, people are sleeping too much and gaining weight, while the summer might have the opposite effect. The connection between heat and mood is clearly reported by people, In fact, it turns out plenty of people don’t find bliss during summer. The hot, bright, long days turn them into gigantic grump buckets or make them genuinely sick.
You’ve probably heard about seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which affects about 4% to 6% of the U.S. population. SAD typically causes depression as the days get shorter and colder. But about 10% of people with SAD get it in the reverse — the onset of summer triggers their depression symptoms. Some studies have shown that in countries near the equator – such as India – summer SAD is more common than winter SAD. Why do seasonal changes cause depression? Experts aren’t sure, but the longer days, and increasing heat and humidity may play a role. Specific symptoms of summer depression often include loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, weight loss, and anxiety.
For many people, the summer months are the most difficult. In fact, 10 percent of those diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder suffer symptoms at the brightest time of the year. The summer’s brutal heat, bright light, and long days can contribute to depression for the opposite reasons that the winter does. Like typical SAD, the change of light can affect a person’s circadium rhythm, which may disturb overall health and sleep patterns. But you don’t need to suffer from summer SAD to slog through the hot days. A substantial part of the population does just that in June, July, and August.
People with summer SAD are most often treated by their doctors with antidepressant medications or, if they’ve already been prescribed them, the doctor may raise the dosage during spring/summer months. Antidepressant medications help to alleviate symptoms of summer SAD by altering the levels of certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Because it may take a few weeks for the course of medications to kick in, some doctors may start with the antidepressants as early as late winter. If you think you may have summer SAD, in addition to getting treatment from your doctor, there are lifestyle changes that can help make the summer months more bearable. Just like with clinical depression, a healthy diet, plenty of exercise (even if it’s indoors) and meetings with a counselor. When it comes to managing body temperature, cold showers and air-conditioned environments can help relieve some discomfort as well.
Summertime is a great time to relax, recharge, and re-organize your resources and life. Not just your outside life. but your inner life as well. Take stock in how things are going, what changes you’d like to make, and set the plan in motion for the fall. Because once September comes, all heck breaks loose and time once again becomes a quantity much in demand, but short in supply. So until then, enjoy the rest of your summer ( and I’ll do the same!)