Summer is meant for Fun, Yet Not Everyone Experiences This
Summer is finally here. The weather is warmer, and the days are longer. For children, school is officially on vacation. For parents, the season presents plenty of opportunities to take a much-needed family vacation. Summer is supposed to be a time of fun and relaxation. However, there are many who suffer from summer seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that prevents them from enjoying this season.
Summer SAD is not a well-known condition, but it affects enough of the population for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to declare September as Suicide Prevention Month. There are a high number of suicide attempts at the end of August and beginning of September. Many believe the increased sunlight provides depressed individuals more energy to take their lives.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects roughly 6% of the U.S. population and is more typically known for causing depression in the winter months when the days get shorter and colder. However, it is less known that about 10% of people who suffer from SAD experience it in the reverse: their depression symptoms occur during the summer instead of the winter.
The symptoms between winter SAD and summer SAD do differ, however. Both conditions do include regular symptoms of anxiety and depression, but that is where most of their similarities end.
Winter SAD Symptoms:
- Less energy
- Increased sleeping
- Weight gain
- Greater appetite
Summer SAD Symptoms:
- Less appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss
- Increased sex drive
Winter SAD is the more commonly known of the two, but summer SAD has seen an increase in acceptance over the years.
Seasonal affective disorder is still not fully understood yet by many doctors and therapists. Some believe that certain hormones deep in the brain are triggered due to seasonal changes. This has become one of the more popular beliefs. However, there are still more possible causes.
- Increased Sunlight: Sunlight plays a key role in most cases of SAD, especially for winter SAD. It is believed that summer SAD is due to too much sun. Melatonin only comes out in the dark and is the chemical that helps us sleep. Longer days mean extended sunlight which hinders its production.
- Summer Heat: The summer’s heat also leads to individuals feeling anxious and angry. The anger that accompanies summer SAD isn’t a feeling of frustration but violent, flaring tempers.
- Disrupted Schedules: This can also lead to SAD as well. Having a reliable routine helps those with depression manage it better, but structure is often lost during the summer months. This disruption can be stressful.
- FOMO: While this is a more recent cultural phenomenon, fear of missing out, or FOMO, can also exacerbate the effects of summer SAD. If you are someone who is not involved in plans or don’t have the means to enjoy summer activities, you may experience FOMO.
According to the New York Times, living closer to the equator where it is much hotter can also play a factor in experiencing this condition. In the U.S., southern states have more reported cases of summer SAD than northern ones.
If you have experienced summer SAD previously, you may feel as if many people do not accept this condition, but that is far from the truth. There are plenty of individuals, doctors, and therapists who understand how frustrating living with SAD can be. While everyone is different, there are some practices that can help those with this condition treat it.
- Seek Dark Rooms: As mentioned previously, the longer sunny days prevent your brain from producing enough melatonin to allow you to sleep properly. Many of your issues may stem from lack of sleep. This does not mean spend all of your time in the dark but avoid overexposing yourself to sunlight.
- Cool Down: The summer heat can be unbearable at times and has led to severe instances of rage. It also plays a large part in causing summer SAD and worsening its effects. Try to find a healthy balance of activities that keep you indoors in the AC.
- Seek Help: You will be hard pressed to find a more efficient treatment for any depression disorder than speaking with a professional. They can help you understand the root of many of your feelings as well as create healthy coping techniques. They can also give you plenty of tips to manage this summertime affliction.
Summer seasonal affective disorder is not a well-known depression disorder around the country, but there are countless individuals who accept it and understand its harms. The caring and experienced staff at Lifeworks Counseling Center are ready to help any person who expects to face summer SAD in the coming months. They are here to help you best cope and manage this condition.