Feeling SAD this summer? Allow us to shed some light on this lesser-known disorder.
by Ashley Guidry
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a major depressive disorder, mania or hypomania with a seasonal pattern. Regular depression affects 1 in 5 American citizens. SAD, however, on a much smaller scale affects about 5 percent of adults. It typically affects people in the fall and follows through the winter months. Although it is not talked about enough, it is possible to experience SAD during the spring and summer months too. Legacy Psychiatrist Dr. Josepha-Pearl Immanuel says, “When most people think of SAD, they assume it’s associated only with winter months. Summer depression can happen and if not treated, can persist through the winter.” Women and those with a long history of depression are more likely to experience summertime SAD than wintertime SAD.
When winter rolls around, we experience a drastic change in weather. In wintertime SAD, decreased sunlight affects a person’s circadian rhythm. This shift in rhythm makes people feel lethargic, gloomy and listless. Individuals experiencing wintertime SAD will begin to oversleep and overeat. For summertime SAD, the complete opposite happens. For four to five months when the weather is warmer, individuals will experience common symptoms tied to depression. Those handling this form of depression will have a lowered appetite and insomnia. Doctors with summer SAD patients say what aggravates their symptoms is the heat and humidity. If you experience SAD symptoms for two years in a row, you are likely to be diagnosed and treated for the disorder.
Dr. Immanuel says, “The treatment is to limit sunlight exposure to typically less than 13 hours a day and staying cool temperature-wise. Using the AC is recommended especially in areas where the weather is as hot as Houston.”
Other ways to ease summer SAD, if the heat affects your mood, include taking frequent cold showers and walking early in the mornings. Decreasing summer light exposure with dark glasses could help too.
If you or someone you know is experiencing summertime SAD, speak with your health care provider about what treatment is best for you. When you seek the support you need, it is possible to have a brighter, healthier summer!