SUMMER is the best time of year – at least that’s what most people will tell you.
The sun is shining, everyone is getting together or looking forward to the holiday. But for some reason you just don’t feel it.
For a minority of people, summer brings poor mood, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite and possibly weight loss.
If this sounds familiar, you may have a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is a condition that is known to affect people more often in the winter when things are a bit gloomier.
However, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 10 percent of people with the condition experience the opposite (summer SAD).
Because it is less common, the condition is rare and understudied.
However, according to Marie Claire UK, there has been an 80 per cent increase in Google searches for “reverse seasonal affective disorder” in the past year and a 450 per cent increase in “summer depression” over the past three months.
This suggests that Brits are either interested in finding out more about the condition or that there is a surge in cases.
Professor Margareta Brown, founder of the Harley Street Wellbeing Clinic and psychologist, told The Sun: “I think more people are becoming aware that there’s a summer version of SAD.”
What is SAD?
According to the NHS, SAD is a form of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.
Because it affects most people during the colder, darker months, it’s commonly referred to as “winter blues.”
The causes are unclear. However, it is thought that reduced solar exposure in winter could be important.
It could interfere with the production of the hormones melatonin, which is important for getting regular sleep, and serotonin, also known as the “happy hormone.”
Changing light can also disrupt circadian rhythms (body clocks), which can affect various bodily functions like appetite and mood.
It is believed that too much light in summer also triggers these physical reactions.
Prof Brown said: “The abundance of light disrupts our production of melatonin, which we need to fall asleep.
“If there’s too much light in your bedroom, or if you’re out late and the light wakes you up early, your sleep-wake cycle becomes disrupted and it’s harder to regulate your mood.”
However, there are a number of circumstances that can contribute to a bad summer mood.
These include financial strains, low body awareness, or a lack of rest time.
Prof Brown said the pressure to socialize during the summer months can affect mood, while pushing yourself to do so can make mood worse.
“We tend to say yes to everything, and every weekend can be busy,” she said.
Hay fever, humidity, and hot weather — which can trigger other conditions like asthma and eczema — can also make you uncomfortable.
What are the symptoms?
It’s important to note that SAD isn’t just about feeling guilty.
The NHS says: “The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are similar to those of normal depression, but recur at a specific time of year.”
Signs of depression include feeling low, tearfulness, and a feeling of despair.
You may become socially withdrawn or lose interest in everyday activities and hobbies, have a decreased sex drive, and feel stressed or anxious.
People with winter depression may eat more and gain weight.
But in the summer, a person with this condition may lose appetite, eat less, and lose weight.
Symptoms can make it difficult to maintain work or relationships.
The situation may be difficult to deal with. Then you should think about seeing your family doctor.
What can you do about it?
A family doctor can conduct an assessment to review your mental health and recommend possible treatment plans.
For people with winter SAD, this may look like light therapy or lifestyle interventions that encourage seeking natural daylight.
Prof Brown said it’s also important to be aware of light exposure when it comes to SAD in the summer, such as limiting exposure in the evening when possible.
However, because summer SAD has not been thoroughly researched, an optimal treatment plan has not yet been found, according to Medical News Today.
Lifestyle measures that may help include:
- Improve sleep, for example by closing the curtains when it is still light
- Use air conditioning or cold showers to regulate heat and reduce irritability
- reduce stress
- Eat healthy
- Plan your social life to include time off