Summer SAD Is Really Depressing. Here’s What You Can Do About It
Ever notice that your attitude and outlook start to darken when the weather starts heating up? If so, you might be affected by a lesser-known condition called summer seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons.
According to National Geographic, people with summer SAD struggle to sleep during the warmer months, which can make them more agitated. They also lose their appetites, which leads to unhealthy weight loss.
While some 10 million Americans are affected by SAD, just 10 percent of that group has summer SAD, according to WebMD. The bulk of those who have SAD are impacted by their conditions during the coldest times of the year, suffering from a condition known as winter SAD.
The SAD We All Know: Winter SAD
In most cases, those who have SAD feel the depression start to creep in as the days get shorter and temperatures begin to plummet.
People with winter SAD start to lose interest in activities, find it hard to concentrate, have less energy, and feel depressed throughout the day. Due to this confluence of factors, they may start to oversleep, overeat, and avoid social interactions. And they can even become suicidal.
While it’s unclear what causes winter SAD, some speculate that Daylight Saving Time may be the culprit, at least to some extent.
Either way, the silver lining here is that, though they recur on a yearly basis, the symptoms of winter SAD aren’t permanent. The National Institute of Mental Health says they should resolve within four or five months for most people, if not sooner.
When most people think of SAD, they think of folks who are affected by the condition in the winter. Few people consider the plight of those that suffer from summer SAD — many of whom may not even be aware that the condition even exists and that they have it.
What Is Summer SAD and Why Does It Happen?
Summer SAD is a seasonal affective disorder that causes depression, irritation, and insomnia during the warmer months of the year.
While every individual is affected by the changes of the seasons differently, some research suggests that those who live at latitudes further from the equator, which tend to have cooler climates (think New Hampshire), are more likely to be affected by winter SAD than their counterparts in warmer climates (think Florida). The study did not show a comparable dynamic regarding summer SAD and proximity to the equator.
What causes summer SAD remains unclear. That said, experts have their theories.
In a recent interview, Dr. Hanne Hoffman, PhD, suggested that the “intense light” in the summer, coupled with heat and humidity, can cause changes in mood. “One hypothesis is that the intense sun in some people overexcites your brain, which might cause anxiety, sleeplessness, and agitation,” Dr. Hoffman said.
Other research suggests that summer SAD may stem from decreased levels of serotonin and melatonin, which knocks people off of their daily rhythms.
While summer SAD can be a devastating, major depressive disorder for those who experience it, the good news is that the condition doesn’t have to be permanent. If summer SAD is slowing you down, keep reading to learn some easy ways to perk back up.
4 Ways to Overcome Summer SAD
If you’re feeling the summer blues, take comfort in the fact you’re not alone. Depending on where you get your data, there are at least hundreds of thousands, if not a million people, who deal with summer SAD each year in the United States alone.
While summer SAD can put you in a tough place, it may be possible to offset its effects by making a few adjustments to the way you go about your day.
With that in mind, here are four ways to beat summer SAD and emerge as a healthier person on the other side of it.
1. Spend time in the shade.
According to Dr. Hoffman, bright summer light may be one of the bigger drivers of summer SAD.
To counteract a hot summer sun, Healthline recommends seeking out darker rooms. By lessening your exposure to bright light and sun rays, you may be able to offset the effects of summer SAD.
2. Exercise and eat well.
Summer SAD can keep you on the couch longer than you’d like to be. And it can cause your diet to take a turn for the worse, too.
Luckily, there’s an easy fix, as long as you’re willing to be proactive. Research suggests that exercising regularly and maintaining a well-balanced diet can enhance your mood.
By increasing your physical activity and eating better foods, you may be able to keep symptoms of SAD in check.
3. Get thee to the movies.
If the bright lights of summer exacerbate your SAD, Healthline suggests heading to the ice-cold, completely dark movie theater on a regular basis during the summer.
While this might not have been possible a year ago, more and more movie theaters are opening their doors as vaccines continue to roll out as we move closer to the end of the pandemic.
Entertainment, darkness, and air-conditioning — all without having to increase your own utility bills. If you’re suffering from summer SAD, why not give it a try?
4. Speak with a professional.
If you’re suffering from summer SAD, the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to tackle the problem entirely on your own.
By talking with a qualified healthcare professional, you may be able to figure out how to change the way you think about the summer months — and live a happier life because of it.
As you begin your search for a therapist to work with, it’s important to do your due diligence to find the one that’s best suited to your needs.
Need help finding a therapist? We’ve got you covered. The GoodTherapy directory is designed specifically to make your search for a healthcare professional to treat your summer SAD easier. We’d love to help you find a qualified therapist in your area and put summer SAD behind you. Here’s to getting the most out of the warmest months!
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