As the sun stops playing hide and seek and its first few rays announce the summer season, most people rejoice. They plan how they’ll be doing justice to the year’s summer fashion trends, which places they’ll be vacationing or interning at, and how they’ll be spending time with friends, chilling on the beach.
But not everyone has a smile stretched on his face as summer befalls; in fact, there are people out there who despise the season. They start getting agitated with the heat and find themselves restless. These feelings are not just of mere discomfort as many people face them year over year. People who notice a pattern in their low feelings in the summer season may be able to attribute their disturbance to summer depression.
What is summer depression?
Summer depression is also known as summer seasonal affective disorder or reverse seasonal affective disorder. This condition is a serious one that needs to be addressed. Alas, awareness regarding summer depression is also lacking as is the research on it. Because only 1% of the global population has this mental ailment and only 4 to 6% of Americans do, not many studies are conducted in this area.
What’s more, it has only been 35 years to the mood disorder’s recognition. You might have heard of another type of seasonal affective disorder known as winter blues. This depression happens to people in the winter season and can be called the opposite of summer SAD.
What are the symptoms of summer depression?
In the case of winter depression, people may experience an expansion in their appetite, the need to sleep way more, and feelings of dullness. Summer depression has the opposite symptoms such as agitation, insomnia, and loss of appetite.
Other symptoms associated with summer SAD include weight loss, anxiety, an overly elevated mood, a constant low feeling, hopelessness, and difficulty concentrating. Since summer SAD leaves people feeling overwhelmingly sad along with agitated, the risks of suicide and such thoughts are also high.
This is why, summer depression needs to be taken seriously. Since summer depression happens at the same time each year, it can be detected easily. Symptoms should be observed for two years in a row before coming to a diagnosis.
What are the causes of summer depression?
There can be a number of causes that can chip in summer seasonal affective disorder. Let’s explore these below:
1 – Excess sunlight
Winter blues hit because of lack of sunlight which disturbs the circadian rhythm. Summer depression can happen due to excess sunlight which can delay melatonin production which can influence the sleep cycle as well and impact mental wellbeing negatively. You see, a disruption in melatonin production also disturbs the production of serotonin which is the happy hormone.
2 – Schedule disturbance
Several people are not fans of change. And with the summer comes a change in lifestyle and a shift in work. For some, such as parents, workload can increase with children being at home. For others, workload can decrease with nothing to do in their leisure time. This change in schedule can influence one’s mental health adversely.
3 – Rise of insecurities
While winter clothing allows people to hide their body underneath clothes and with it, imperfections, this is not the case with summer. In summer many people struggle with body image issues as light clothing reveals their physique. Several people also experience greasy hair, oil or acne-prone skin due to the heat which has a detrimental impact on their sense of self.
4 – Heat intolerance
Another factor that can cause summer depression is the excruciating heat which can keep one from spending time outdoors, exercising or even standing in the kitchen. Work can also seem like more of a chore in the sweltering heat. Sweat can make one feel uncomfortable round the clock. Excess heat can also keep one from eating and sleeping well.
5 – Increased stress
Last but not the least, summer depression can also be caused due to financial or another type of stress. Many people earn less in summers or have to spend more due to vacations and all. This can be stress-inducing. Furthermore, people also compare themselves to others who portray the fun they are having in summer vacations on social media which can cause stress and depressive feelings.
Who is at risk of summer depression?
There are some people who are at more risk of experiencing summer SAD than others. Women are at a higher risk of it than men but men who have summer depression have worse symptoms. Moreover, people who have a heredity of this condition are also at higher risk. Younger people are at a higher risk of this depression as well.
Moreover, those who already have clinical depression or bipolar disorder, their risk of developing summer SAD is also higher. It is also believed that people in countries close to the northern hemisphere are also more likely to have this type of depression.
How can summer depression be treated?
Seeking treatment for summer depression is crucial as is the case with any other sort of depression. Doctors typically recommend lifestyle changes and talk therapy for improving one’s condition. However, if one’s situation doesn’t improve, then medications are also prescribed.
Lifestyle changes that one can make on his own include avoiding too much sun, wearing sunshades, staying indoors, and turning on the air conditioner as much as possible. Depending on the cause behind one’s depression, treatment plan may differ.
Some other things that can help include taking cold baths, exercising to lift one’s mood, sleeping at set times in a cold and dark room as well as having something to look forward to such as a hangout plan or a movie even. Listening to music and setting a lenient schedule can also be helpful. Socialization and self-care must also be considered.
Summer depression is an uncommon type of depression which is why not much research has been conducted on it. Women, people in hotter regions, younger people, and people with an existing mental ailment are more at risk of this type of depression which is also known as reverse seasonal affective disorder or summer SAD.
Summer SAD is characterized by feelings of agitation and restlessness. Suicidal thoughts, a loss of appetite, and an inability to sleep are some other symptoms of the condition. Summer depression can be treated through professional help and some lifestyle changes which one can make himself. It is best to treat the problem than let it worsen.
If you, or someone who know, is having suicidal thoughts because of summer SAD or another reason, please contact the suicide prevention hotline and seek immediate help.