When happiness is hard: the facts about summertime depression
After this long winter we experienced, it’s likely you’ve heard of – or possibly even experienced – SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which causes depression as the days get shorter and colder. But what you may not know is that about 10 percent of people with SAD get it in reverse, where the onset of summer triggers their depression symptoms.
While Summer SAD only affects less than one percent of the U.S., it’s a serious disease that many people are unaware of.
For Winter SAD, it’s easier to see how colder weather and darker days can trigger depression. But for Summer SAD, the causes are not as clear. According to Alfred Lewy, MD, professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, warm weather depression often occurs in individuals whose bodies experience a “delay adjusting to new seasons.” Although the exact reason for this is unclear, Lewy believes this difficulty adjusting could be due to imbalances in brain chemistry and the hormone melatonin.
People with Summer SAD often suffer from symptoms that are actually the opposite of those associated with Winter SAD. During the cold month, SAD sufferers tend to sleep more, gain weight and keep themselves socially hibernated. But during the summer months, those who experience SAD are extremely irritated and agitated, resulting in lack of sleep and weight loss.
Suffering from Summer SAD?
If you believe you suffer from Summer SAD and see the above symptoms every year around the same time, you should consult your doctor for treatment options. There are also several lifestyle changes that can help make the warmer months more bearable, including incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet, adding indoor exercise to your daily routine to boost endorphins and, when possible, sticking to air-conditioned environments.
Photo credit: de la maldad