Are you feeling sad this summer?
The first sign of summer brings feelings of joy, relaxation and comfort for many people. But for those with summer onset seasonal affective disorder (SAD), summer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
“Seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as seasonal depression, is the recurrence of depression in a seasonal pattern,” says Emily Hoch, a behavioral health social worker at Aurora Bay Area Health Center in Marinette, Wis. Though summer depression is less common than what’s typical during the long, cold winter, the relative impact can be the same.
Signs and symptoms
While those who suffer from winter SAD may experience increased appetite, hypersomnia and low energy, those with summer SAD may experience the opposite – poor appetite, insomnia and restlessness or anxiety. Other symptoms of depression may include:
- Feeling sad most days
- Loss of interest
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of hopelessness
“Keep in mind,” Hoch says, “year-round symptoms, without any correlation to the seasons, may be a sign of major depression.”
The causes of SAD are not always clear. However, experts suggest temperature fluctuations, sun exposure and climatic adjustments can impact biological clocks, sleep cycles and mood.
In the winter, the lack of vitamin D received from the sun is thought to reduce serotonin – commonly known as the happy chemical. Yet, in the summer, heat, humidity and UV rays can contribute to some irritability associated with summer depression.
- Females are four times more likely to be diagnosed with SAD than males.
- SAD occurs mostly in young adults and is even seen in children and teens.
- Family history of depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders may put you at greater risk for SAD.
- Those diagnosed with bipolar disorder are more likely to experience heightened depression symptoms in a seasonal pattern.
Everyone expects summer to be a time of relaxation and fun, even those with summer onset SAD. The high expectations associated with summer can leave anyone feeling disappointed. Images of beaches, amusement parks and festivals popping up on social media can leave you wondering, “Why am I not enjoying my summer?”
If you feel depressed during the summer months, your feelings are not unfounded. Consider reaching out for help or searching for coping mechanisms that suit you. Some tips include:
- Make sure you’re getting a restful night of sleep. People tend to sleep better in cooler environments, so consider sleeping with air conditioning or a fan on.
- Make a plan for when you are feeling down. If you know summer SAD may be in your future, try to plan ahead for things you find fun. And stick to the plan! Your plan may include a day-long trip to the beach, an amusement park or simply going for a walk. Being intentional can help your chances of keeping summer SAD at bay.
- Talk to somebody about it, whether it be a friend, family member or medical professional.
- Exercise to release endorphins.
- Lather up with sunscreen to avoid sunburn, which causes discomfort and irritability.
- Go easy on yourself. If you know browsing through social media and being witness to others’ fun is going to upset you, take a social media fast for a while. And if you don’t get around to doing something you planned on doing during the summer, or you generally feel bad for being bummed out during the summer months, don’t beat yourself up about it. “You’re allowed to feel whatever feelings you’re feeling,” says Hoch, “but make sure you’re being good to yourself. We’re all hard enough on ourselves as it is.”
About the Author
Cali Nygren, health enews contributor, is a marketing intern for Aurora BayCare with a BA in business administration from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. In her spare time, you may find Cali cracking jokes, watching Marvel movies, and spending time with her friends and family.