Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression triggered by the change of seasons. It usually manifests in most people in the winter, but reverse SAD, or summer-related depression, affects people differently. If you think you've got the summertime blues, here are ten signs of summer depression.
High temperatures, intense sunlight and humidity may contribute to summer depression for some people Spend less time in the sun to beat summer depression, since summer SAD may be linked to an overabundance of sunlight. Constant, bright sunlight may have the same effect on people that never ending rain does. The cloudy, rainy weather of the Pacific Northwest, the dreary winters in the Northeast and the constant sunlight of Southern California may have similarities when it comes to SAD.
If summer sun causes SAD symptoms, wear sunglasses when you're outdoors. Keep shades pulled down or use a blackout screen when you're inside, especially if your workdesk is close to a window.
Research has indicated that reverse SAD is more common in geographic areas prone to hot, humid summers, like Florida and Louisiana. If you are close to the equator, it's more likely that you'll have summer depression. People living closer to the North Pole are more likely to develop winter depression. Consistent air conditioning (and taking cool showers) while indoors will help control the symptoms of summer SAD. Spending the summer (or your vacation) in a cooler, drier climate also helps alleviate summer depression.
If you're short-tempered during the summer, you may be suffering from summer depression. The hot weather makes some people irritable, causing them to snap at family and co-workers. Get out of the heat and into an air-conditioned room if this happens to you. Make sure you eat a balanced diet and take a natural remedy for mood swings. Ginseng, wheatgrass with Vitamin B6 and B12 and Omega 3 Fatty acids (fish oil capsules or salmon and other fatty fish) are a few proven depression fighters. Exercising or meditating (indoors, in an air-conditioned room) are other natural ways to change your mood from sour to sweet. If irritability persists, talk to your doctor.
Unlike winter SAD, people with summer depression find it difficult to get to sleep. This may be due to high temperatures, humidity or an erratic summer schedule. Keep your bedroom air-conditioned (or use a large fan blowing directly at your bed). Keep shades drawn at night and electronics out of the bedroom. Go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, even if you're on vacation.
Summer depression and anxiety can be caused by having too much to do. Planning vacations, sending the kids to summer camp and running errands in t heat can be taxing for people with Summer SAD. Take frequent breaks to cool off or delegate tasks to others if you find yourself over-committed. Summer should be relaxing, not exhausting.
You'll probably need to deal with kids on summer vacation, spouses off work for a week or two, and other summer slackers. At work, you may need to double up on projects because a co-worker is on vacation. This causes extra stress for people who are already on edge because of the summer heat. Don't overexert yourself at home or on the job. Take a vacation or personal day, or relax on a shaded patio for a few hours. You'll feel calmer when you return to work or daily tasks.
Even people who look great in their spring wardrobe might feel self-conscious in barely there summer attire. Out of necessity, summer heat dictates that we wear shorts, sandals, tank tops and T-shirts just to stay cool. Although you shouldn't worry about how you look, (chances are most people are too self-absorbed to notice the five extra pounds you're carrying anyway), many people can't help it.
If you find yourself avoiding pool parties or barbeques due to embarrassment about your appearance, choose comfortable but not-too-revealing clothes. Wear a long, flowing skirt instead of shorts for an evening party or a one piece bathing suit with a cover-up instead of a bikini for the beach. If you're really worried about what others think about your appearance, you may need to talk to a therapist about your self-esteem – or find another group of friends.
Spending money on lavish vacations, summer camp for the kids and pool parties can be a drain on your bank account and your nerves. Don't feel obligated to go on expensive vacations or plan outdoor dinner parties – staycations and informal get-togethers are cheaper and may offer more meaningful experiences with family and friends. Instead of worrying about money, luggage and late or missed flights, you'll have a better chance to bond with the people closest to you.
Summer offers great opportunities to get exercise and experience nature. If you are anxious about bug bites, snakes or other icky creatures in the wilderness, remember the chances of getting Lyme disease or other serious problems are quite rare. Go on short hikes close to home to see nature without fear of the unknown. After you've taken a few small steps, you'll be more likely to participate in more challenging sports – snorkeling, sailing and longer hikes – without being fearful. If you still have anxiety about outdoor activities, participate in milder forms of exercise, such as a short game of tennis or a nighttime softball game. It's important to get exercise and fresh air, even if you have SAD.
Dr Alfred Lewy of Oregon Health and Science University believes there may be two different types of summer depression. One type may be related to the light and dark cycle and the other tied to the high temperatures and humidity, but the research isn't conclusive yet. Too much sunlight may cause changes in melatonin production. Staying up late or not keeping a regular sleep schedule may also be a problem for some people – teachers who have the summer off, for example. This lack of a daily bedtime – and wake-up time- may throw off your body clock.
Summer depression usually causes weight loss. All that heat and humidity makes some people lose their appetite. If you can't eat large meals during the summer, substitute several snacks or light meals throughout the day. Eat half a sandwich, an apple, a handful of peanuts or other healthy foods every few hours. If you find the heat outdoors too oppressive, sit in an air-conditioned dining room to eat your lunch. Drink plenty of water (or iced herbal tea). Avoid soda (including diet soda), alcohol and coffee, as these drinks cause dehydration.
The earlier sunsets of winter can wreck havoc with your circadian rhythm, but so can the long, sunny days of summer. People with the summertime version of SAD feel agitated and too high-strung to eat or sleep normally. Winter causes lack of energy in SAD patients, but reverse SAD (summer depression) may cause manic behavior.
People with summer SAD suffer from weight loss, anxiety, sleeplessness and irritability. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) indicates that only 1/10 of SAD cases are summer-related, affecting 1% of the overall population.
Most individuals suffering from summer depression can keep the condition in check by making a few changes. Behavioral therapy and the use of non-prescription mood enhancing supplements will help people with mild to moderate cases of reverse SAD. Prescription antidepressants and long-term therapy may be necessary for individuals with severe summer depression. Some people who think they have summer depression may actually be bipolar, so consulting a therapist is important for people who can't reduce symptoms on their own.
Professor Norman Rosenthal, a retired psychiatrist from Georgetown University, discovered Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, in 1984 when using light therapy as a form of treatment for people who became depressed during the dreary winter months. While working as a resident at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Rosenthal noticed that he was more productive during the summer months than during the dark, short winter days in the Northeast. This led to research on the change of seasons and how they affected certain individuals. Winter SAD is by far the most common type of seasonal depression. The symptoms of winter SAD include overeating, lack of concentration, a hard time getting up in the morning and lack of energy.
A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health found that “that summer depressives were more likely to have endogenous vegetative symptoms, with decreased appetite and insomnia” and winter depressives are more likely to have increased appetite, weight gain and hypersomnia. There are exceptions to this finding. Ellen Frank, a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine psychiatry professor, has suffered from summer depression, and described feeling “yucky and listless in the summer and full of energy in the winter.” She cured her depression by waking at sunrise and getting sunlight from as the sun first appeared on the horizon.
Rising early in the morning and taking a melatonin supplement (melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone produced by the body) are common treatments for summer depression.
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