When most people think of summer they think of long days of swimming, kids playing with friends, taking family vacations and trips to the beach. Most people yearn for those warm summer days with the sun shining bright accompanied by a gentle breeze. For many, it’s the ideal time of year, but that isn’t the case for all. In fact, some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as SAD, with the onset of summer.
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that can carry all of the same symptoms as major depressive disorder, but comes with the onset of a specific season. It’s common for SAD to be associated with those who experience the onset of depression due to winter settling in with colder temperatures, shorter days, and a lack of sunlight, but it’s not the only season that triggers SAD. While it’s not as common and not as well known, some people experience SAD with the onset of summer.
What’s the Difference?
While those who suffer from summertime SAD and wintertime SAD can both experience the symptoms associated with major depressive disorder, there are also different symptoms you may experience depending on which one you’re affected by. Wintertime SAD sufferers are likely to feel sluggish, overeat and gain weight, and sleep more than usual. This is due to the lack of available sunlight impacting our circadian rhythms. Our natural sleep-wake schedule can get off beat and thus we experience a drop in serotonin levels.
If wintertime SAD is thought to occur due to a lack of sunlight, then what causes summertime SAD? Researchers are still figuring it out, but it’s currently believed that those affected may be sensitive to excessive heat and to receiving an over-abundance of sunlight. When people receive too much sunlight, it stops melatonin production. This is another hormone that also impacts your sleep-wake cycle. With the sun shining longer, melatonin won’t be produced as often, which explains why summertime SAD is often characterized as the opposite of winter SAD with symptoms of insomnia, feelings of agitation, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Who’s at Risk for SAD?
Anyone can be affected by SAD, however it does seem to be more common among women. Individuals with family members who suffer from SAD are also more prone to developing it as there seems to be a genetic factor. Research has also suggested that those diagnosed with bipolar disorder may also be more sensitive to developing SAD. Summertime SAD also seems to impact more of those who live in hotter climates, opposed to those who live in cooler areas.
How to Cope with Summertime SAD
While wintertime SAD is often treated with light therapy, that most likely won’t help those impacted by summertime SAD. Instead, it’s recommended to spend more time in a dark room to alleviate the symptoms that are triggered by too much sunlight. As heat is thought to be another cause for summertime SAD, it’s important to stay cool with AC. If you want to avoid raising your own utility bill, try to go out to public places such as restaurants or shopping malls. Movie theatres are also perfect as it keeps a dark atmosphere with the AC set to a cool temperature. If none of the above suggestions seem to help, try talking with a professional healthcare provider. They can help you find a treatment option that works for you.
Are you missing out on the summertime fun? If you feel down every time summer rolls around, you may be experiencing summertime SAD. Don’t let summertime SAD keep you from spending time with friends and family. If you’re experiencing depression and nothing seems to be helping, the TMS Center of the Lehigh Valley is here to help.