Are you finding yourself suffering from a case of the “summer blues” during the warmest months of the year?
Most people who live in areas of the world with cold and dark winters are familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder — a form of depression that’s also referred to as “the winter blues.”
But did you know that there are people who suffer from it in the middle of summer too?
Summer is supposed to be that special time of year where you can finally get outside more often, go on road trips, visit new places, have barbecues, go to the beach and spend lots of time with friends and family.
But for about 4 to 6 percent of the U.S. population, summertime SAD keeps them from being able to make the most out of the short-lived warmer weather.
Summertime SAD: Do You Have Any of the Symptoms?
Unlike wintertime SAD, which often involves overeating, oversleeping and sensitivity to the cold, summertime SAD symptoms are the opposite.
According to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, summertime SAD symptoms include:
- decreased appetite;
- trouble sleeping (or insomnia); and
- sensitivity to heat or sunlight.
You could say that both versions of SAD in the winter and summer represent the body’s responsiveness to seasonal changes, but on a much more extreme level.
It’s normal to feel a little sluggish in the winter because of the lack of daylight and it’s fine to lose some sleep in the summer because it’s too darn hot and humid, but SAD exaggerates those experiences.
The rest of the summertime SAD symptoms are shared with its wintertime counterpart.
No matter which season it is, other signs suggesting you could be suffering from SAD include significant changes in your weight, lost interest in social activities, excessive amounts of time spent in front of the TV or computer, the inability to concentrate or sustain focus, difficulty making decisions, irritability around others and even thoughts of death or suicide.
There are at least a couple summer-specific things that may be more likely to trigger the condition.
For example, people who are used to sticking to a schedule throughout the fall, winter and spring can become depressed when they realize they’re faced with a chaotic and irregular summer schedule.
And for both men and women, body image issues that stem from the pressure of having to wear more revealing outfits and swimwear may also play a role.
What You Should Do If You Think You Might Have Summertime SAD
First and foremost, if you have a case of the summer blues and think you could have some form of SAD, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
There’s always a chance it could be something else, and diagnosing yourself from what you’ve read on the internet isn’t always the best way to go about dealing with it — especially when it comes to mental health.
While wintertime SAD can usually be treated with light therapy and vitamin D supplementation, summertime SAD can be a bit trickier, and, since scientists don’t quite know exactly what causes it, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how to treat it.
It might be the excessive heat, the higher amounts of sunlight or a combination of both, but scientists just aren’t sure yet.
You may be advised to do the opposite of what you’d do to treat wintertime SAD.
In this case, you’d have to stay out of the sun and heat as much as possible by seeking shelter in air-conditioned buildings and closing the blinds or drapes.
Unlike wintertime SAD, however, those who suffer from the summertime version don’t feel the lasting effects of their treatment as soon as they have to step outside to face blindingly bright levels of sunlight and unbearably hot and humid temperatures.
Given that summertime SAD is not only more rare, but also difficult to handle when you have to venture outdoors again, the condition can feel much more isolating than the wintertime equivalent.
Whether you suffer from SAD or just a mild and temporary case of the summer blues, being bummed out any time of the year is never any fun.
Try making some healthy lifestyle adjustments to see if you can help it naturally and get back to living your life.