The sun is shining, the beach is calling, and it's summer. It’s the time of year when so many people are excited to spend their weekends outdoors in the fresh air, which can make it even more difficult for people who suffer from summer depression – a form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s a tricky disorder – most forms of depression are – so here is some information on summer SAD that can help you navigate through it.
Know the Symptoms
Experts aren’t sure what causes summer seasonal affective disorder, but they think it might have to do with heat and humidity, because while winter SAD is the more common disorder, countries closer to the equator have a much higher instance of summer SAD.
The symptoms of summer seasonal affective disorder are almost opposite those of winter SAD. While the winter disorder often prompts overeating, weight gain, and oversleeping, summer SAD often causes loss of appetite, weight loss, and insomnia. Unfortunately, anxiety often comes with both versions.
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor – don’t let it linger. It’s better to try to get a handle on it sooner rather than later.
Be Aware of the Triggers
While there’s no known cause for summer SAD, there are some situations that seem to add to its severity or trigger it, and all of these triggers in some way coincide with summer.
For some parents, it’s the time when their children go off to college and they’re experiencing empty bedrooms for the first time in 18 years.
For others, summer SAD can be spurred on by body image problems as people head to the beach and start wearing more revealing clothes.
It can also be triggered by financial concerns, as the summer months are often the time when people take vacations. Not having enough money to leave town, resulting in a trapped feeling, or cutting back so much on other things you need just to make it to your destination can take its toll.
How to Reduce its Impact
There are plenty of things you can do to lessen the impact of SAD. Plan, for one. The good thing about knowing you have seasonal affective disorder is that you also know when it’s coming. In the months before summer, do a self-evaluation of all the positives you have going for you and what typically gets you down during the summer. If there are steps you can take to lessen the effects of these, plan for them early. For example, if you know in December you’d like to take a summer vacation, start saving for it early so you don’t feel stressed out. Conversely, if there are events you can avoid that don’t bring you joy and only cause you anxiety – such as hosting an Independence Day party or a yearly get-together –don’t do them.
It’s also important to stay on top of your sleep schedule, exercise regimen, and healthy eating routine. And above all else, if you feel that you might be affected by summer SAD, talk to a professional. There are ways to get through it, and you don’t have to do it alone. The first place to start is by scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician.
Dr. Udayamurthy is a board-certified Internal Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Pasadena Clinic. She believes in creating a long-term relationship with her patients so they’ll feel comfortable enough to ask questions and share their health concerns.