Are you sad this summer? You may be suffering from SAD then

Summer, often associated with vibrant energy and joyful outdoor activities, might not be all sunshine and happiness for everyone. While many people thrive during the warmer months, there are those who experience a dip in mood, avoidance of social interactions, and a loss of interest in daily routines. This condition is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a term commonly linked to wintertime blues due to reduced exposure to sunlight. Surprisingly, SAD can also strike during summer months, affecting at least 10% of individuals, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The concept of “reverse seasonal affective disorder” has gained attention, with an 80% increase in searches for the term last year and a significant 450% surge in searches for “summer depression” in recent months, as reported by Marie Claire UK.

Professor Margareta James, the founder of the Harley Street Wellbeing Clinic and a psychologist, highlighted the growing awareness of a summer version of SAD, stating, “I think more people are becoming aware that there is a summer version of SAD.”

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that follows a seasonal pattern, often occurring during the winter months. The exact cause of SAD remains unclear, but researchers believe that reduced exposure to sunlight in winter plays a significant role. This diminished sunlight exposure can lead to lower production of hormones such as melatonin, essential for sleep regulation, and serotonin, often referred to as the “happy hormone.” Moreover, changes in sunlight can disrupt the body’s internal clock, impacting various bodily functions like appetite and mood.

Professor James explained, “The abundance of light shuts off our melatonin production, which is needed to fall asleep. If there is too much light in your bedroom, or if you’re out late and then light wakes you up early, your sleep/wake cycle gets messed up, and then it’s harder to regulate mood.”

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However, other factors beyond sunlight can contribute to summer-related low moods, such as financial stress, lack of personal time, and social pressures. Professor James pointed out that the expectation to be more social during summer months can affect mood, and pushing oneself to meet those expectations may exacerbate the condition.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Symptoms of SAD in summer are similar to those experienced during other times of the year, characterized by a low mood, tearfulness, and feelings of despair. Individuals might withdraw from social interactions and lose interest in daily activities. Interestingly, unlike winter SAD where increased appetite and weight gain are common, summer SAD can lead to decreased appetite, reduced food intake, and subsequent weight loss.

Coping Strategies

For those dealing with summer SAD, Professor James recommends being mindful of light exposure. Managing light exposure in the evenings, such as limiting exposure before bedtime, can play a role in managing the condition. Additionally, adopting coping strategies such as improving sleep quality, incorporating cold showers to alleviate heat-related irritability, reducing stress, maintaining a healthy diet, and planning social engagements that allow for personal downtime can contribute to managing the symptoms of summer SAD.

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While summer is often celebrated for its vibrant atmosphere, it’s important to recognize that not everyone experiences it in the same way. For those grappling with summer SAD, seeking support from mental health professionals and implementing coping strategies can make a significant difference in managing the condition and enjoying the season to the fullest.