Relates a little too much to Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness?” There may be a reason for that. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression caused by seasonal changes, and although it is usually associated with the short, gloomy days of winter – which can leave some feeling tired, tired and unmotivated – 10 to 15 percent of people with SAD experiences symptoms in the summer, according to Norman Rosenthal, MD, who first coined the term with his colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health in 1984.
What are the symptoms of summer SAD?
Although SAD is characterized by depression regardless of the season, the symptoms people experience in winter and summer can vary drastically. “The winter types think slowly, move slowly. The summer types are sometimes energetic and agitated in a way that is not very pleasant,” said Dr. Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine, to POPSUGAR. “Winter types eat more, especially sweets and starch. Summer types can lose their appetite completely.” Finally, “while winter types tend to sleep more, summer types are more likely to have insomnia,” explained Dr. Rosenthal.
He added that people with SAD in the summer actually have a higher risk of suicide. “It follows from clinical observations that it is more common for people to be suicidal when they are depressed and agitated than when they are depressed and sluggish,” said Dr. Rosenthal.
What causes seasonal depression in the summer?
There are a few potential triggers for summer depression. Dr. Rosenthal said heat and light are two main factors. Evidence suggests that some people’s bodies respond poorly to high temperatures and bright light, creating a physiological imbalance that can harm their mental health.
Social factors can also contribute to summer SAD. After all, the resurgence of swimwear and summer travel can raise issues such as negative body image and financial problems in sharp focus, explained Dr. Rosenthal. Others rely on school or work to keep them grounded, which can make them feel lost when their routine is disrupted in the summer.
Tonya Ladipo, LCSW, CEO of The Ladipo Group, added that SAD in the summer may be exacerbated by feelings of isolation. “In the summer, people think about vacation and fun,” Ladipo explained. “If you’re struggling with depression in the winter, a lot of people do it, and then it’s more understandable and more familiar. There’s this idea that it’s summer and you should be happy. If you are not, it’s hard. “
What should I do if I have summer SAD?
There is a lot of research in cure for winter SAD, but summer SAD is a little harder to treat. Dr. Rosenthal first recommends trying to find exposure from heat and light. He noted that some of his patients felt better after taking a cold shower, swimming in a lake or sea, staying indoors with air conditioning on or wearing sunglasses. Dr. Rosenthal noted, however, that researchers “have not been able to establish a systematic way” to treat summer SAD.
Ladipo suggests starting a mood diary to track how you feel every day, as well as talk to people in your support system and move your body in any way that feels good to you, whether it’s dancing, running, swimming or anything else. She still recommends going out early in the morning or in the evening, even if the heat and light are triggering, to avoid isolating yourself and making the depression worse.
If the feeling of depression and agitation is persistent, talk to a doctor or therapist. “Depression can be a really serious business, especially if you have suicidal thoughts,” said Dr. Rosenthal. “All of these self-help tips are wonderful and valuable, but if you really suffer, you really want to see a professional.”
If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or is at risk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has more resources and a 24/7 lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.