When the word summer is mentioned, most people get excited to plan outings, barbecues, festivals, and sun-lounging. It’s like the season is synonymous with fun and liveliness. However, some people don’t feel the same way, especially if they struggle with seasonal depression. Compared to winter depression, summer depression is a lesser-known form of seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. It’s a condition affecting about 5% of the population in the United States every year but there are many effective remedies for combatting the seasonal blues.
What Is Summer Depression?
Summer depression is also known as summer-onset depression or reverse seasonal affective disorder. It occurs during the summer months, usually from June to August in the northern hemisphere. It’s a type of major depressive disorder affecting individuals with sensitivity to heat and sunlight. In countries near the equator, like India, this is more common. The longer days and the increase in heat and humidity may make people experience feelings of lethargy and despair. However, anyone can suffer from summer depression.
Many people rely on routines in their daily life. When summer kicks in, these often go out of the window with surprise trips, kids not going to school anymore, and regular meals pushed back at different times. These disruptions in routine can cause anxiety for some.
The good news: there are many ways to address summer depression which this post will tackle in a bit. Treating SAD symptoms is possible, allowing patients to enjoy summer like the rest. To help you understand the condition better, this post will explore the various symptoms and causes of summer depression that are often overlooked or misunderstood.
Causes Of Summer Depression
It’s completely understandable to go through changes in mood, appetite, and sleep patterns. However, when these symptoms escalate to a point where they’re affecting our daily lives, it could be a sign of summer depression. It’s important to recognize the severity of this condition, as it can cause significant distress and interfere with our work, school, and personal lives. Here are some common causes of summer depression that you may be experiencing.
The Body’s Internal Clock
Summer depression may be related to the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm refers to the innate patterns followed by the body’s biological processes in a 24-hour cycle. It can involve physical, mental, and behavioral changes controlled by an internal biological clock sensitive to external cues such as light and temperature. The increased daylight hours associated with the summer season can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to sleep disturbances and stress.
Melatonin and serotonin are two hormones that regulate circadian rhythm. Melatonin responds to darkness and is released to prepare the body to sleep. On the other hand, serotonin regulates mood and responds to light.
When the body is exposed to light, melatonin is suppressed, which keeps you awake and alert during the day. This is why you may have difficulty sleeping in the summer, as the days are brighter for longer. A disruption in the production of these hormones can lead to sleep and mood disorders and other health problems.
Summer depression may also be related to social factors. Because of the heat, people are bound to seek recreational activities, such as going to the beach. For people who are highly self-conscious about their bodies, these types of summer activities can be a dreadful experience.
Changes in Routine for Kids
For parents with kids, you may relate summer to additional stress and financial burdens. Summer does see an upshot in spending, even among average-income families. The expectation of booking a holiday for a vacation is an example of that. Add the need for children to let loose, and you can see why many parents naturally dread the extra time provided by summer vacation.
Additionally, the idea that the school season is fast approaching can be problematic for parents who must pay exorbitantly high tuition fees. Because of this, many people can feel financially strapped.
Of course, there is the heat. The sweltering weather can cause some people to stop doing activities that used to be comfortably done outside, like lounging or reading a book. People who love to cook may avoid the kitchen because of the heat, and those who love outdoor sports may do it less. This sudden cramping of routines, combined with the uncomfortable temperatures, can knock many people off their rhythms.
Symptoms Of Summer Depression
Some symptoms of summer depression may be similar to those of other types of depression. These include:
- Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- Difficulty concentrating
- Restlessness or agitation
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
Other symptoms that may be specific to summer depression may include the following:
- Anxiety related to heat or social events
- Increased sweating or physical discomfort associated with heat
- Trouble sleeping due to heat or longer daylight hours
These symptoms may vary in individuals and range in intensity, so keen observation is necessary if you feel a loved one is exhibiting these symptoms.
Tips To Beat Summer Depression
Although summer depression can cast a shadow on this fun season, there are ways to beat this. Here are some tips that can help you manage seasonal depression, such as:
- Get outside early in the day to boost your mood and energy levels.
- Stay hydrated.
- Maintain a good sleep routine. Try taking a warm bath to transition to bed in total relaxation.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule.
- Get regular exercise. This increases your dopamine levels, your body’s feel-good hormones.
- Practice meditation and breathing exercises.
- Set goals and stay motivated.
- Avoid over-exposure, use sunglasses when going out, and reduce your screen time.
- Use blackout curtains to prevent harsh morning light from coming in and waking you up unnecessarily
- Avoid the urge to isolate, reach out to friends and loved ones
- Eat fruits and vegetables high in melatonin, such as tropical fruits like bananas and pineapple
- Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, like fatty fish like salmon and tuna, and nuts like almonds and walnuts.
These aren’t substitutes for actual treatment in extreme cases. However, they can go a long way in relieving the symptoms of summer depression, allowing patients to take back and redefine some of the enjoyment they could have from the season.
Treatment For Summer Depression
There are several effective treatments available for those who are experiencing summer depression. One of the most successful options is psychological treatment, specifically evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy. This treatment has been proven to be helpful in managing symptoms and providing relief for those who are struggling with summer depression. A combination of treatments is often seen as more effective, which typically consists of psychotherapy and medication.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, may be provided with antidepressants to help alleviate the symptoms of summer depression. Aside from that, the following SAD activities also help:
- Light therapy: Exposure to bright artificial light mimics the effect of natural sunlight, which improves mood and helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm.
- Vitamin D: A lack of this vitamin may exacerbate symptoms. You can ask your doctor if vitamin D supplements may work for you.
- Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle plays a crucial role in summer depression; reflecting on things you need to prioritize may help lower the pressure of rushing plans to prove you’ve spent your summer well. Eating a healthy diet and avoiding stress will benefit you, too.
It’s important to remember that talking to a mental health professional will determine the best treatment for you. So, seek professional help if you feel you need it.
The most fun and carefree time of the year can cause others to isolate themselves and feel lonely. But if you have summer depression, you can take steps to manage your condition and enjoy the season at your own pace. Contact a doctor, talk about your symptoms, and know your options for treatment and support.
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