The start of summer signals the end of the “winter blues” for those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a condition that causes mild to severe depression, often during winter, because of shorter days and increased darkness.
SAD, however, is not exclusive to winter. Summer seasonal depression, or reverse seasonal affective disorder, is another form of SAD. It is rare, with only one-tenth of SAD cases diagnosed as summer SAD. Both reverse seasonal affective disorder and SAD are similar in that each occurs seasonally.
Summer seasonal depression and SAD, though, are different when it comes to how they affect you. SAD often causes fatigue, weight gain, and excessive sleeping, while summer SAD has been known to cause symptoms like insomnia, decreased appetite, and manic behavior.
What Causes Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Summer seasonal depression is believed to be caused from the exact opposite of SAD — too much sunlight and longer days.
- Too much sunlight. Unlike SAD, which results from not enough sunlight, reverse seasonal affective disorder happens because of too much sunlight. Summer boasts the longest period of daylight, with the summer solstice. For some areas, the amount of daylight lasts more than 20 hours during the solstice. Extensive sunlight hours can cause your body to shift its melatonin production, which can affect your mood and sleep patterns. Not enough melatonin can lead to insomnia, as well as impact your body’s production of serotonin, which plays a major role in your mood.
- Longer days and shorter nights. More daylight tends to encourage you to spend more hours awake, taking advantage of the longer days. Your circadian rhythm, however, may not respond well to your increased initiative and hours spent awake. What your circadian rhythm does is act as a 24-hour internal clock for your body. It says when you need to be awake and alert, and when you need to be tired and sleepy. If that system is thrown off, say by staying up later throughout the summer, your circadian rhythm becomes disrupted. When you ignore your circadian rhythm, insomnia and fatigue can result. Both results cause your body to release cortisol, a stress hormone. And you probably know from experience what happens when you are stressed — your mood and emotions are affected.
- Higher temperatures. Increased summer temperatures can cause anyone to be irritable. Those with summer seasonal depression, however, are affected in different ways. Their appetites wane, and they may also withdraw from social activities, in a bid to avoid the heat. The heat also causes manic emotions, versus depression in SAD. Because of its relation to heat, Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder is more common in the Southern U.S., which tends to have warmer summers than states further to the north.
Seasonal summer depression’s causes have yet to be fully understood. Its rarity makes it an area of limited research, which makes it difficult for people to receive the correct diagnosis and treatment they need.
Treatment for Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder
Treatment for reverse seasonal affective disorder often includes therapy or medication. It is essential you see a mental health professional educated on summer seasonal depression.
Mental health professionals unfamiliar with summer SAD cannot give you a proper diagnosis. They often misdiagnose clients with anxiety or severe depression. A wrong diagnosis does not help you treat your seasonal summer depression.
Therapy and medicine are two ways to treat your reverse seasonal affective disorder. You can also do a few things on your own to help manage your reverse seasonal affective disorder:
- Get enough sleep. Upsetting your circadian rhythm can unravel your management of your seasonal summer depression. Make sure you go to bed early. Set an alarm to remind you, as the longer daylight hours can make you think it is earlier than it is.
- Keep a routine. Write down your routines and commitments, like a visit with friends, and hold yourself to them. Be conscious of maintaining your relationships throughout the summer. Arrange get-togethers indoors to help manage your symptoms, and remember, your friends can offer support and help brighten your day.
- Remember the sun. Understand how the sun and heat affect your seasonal depression. Be conscious of how much time you spend in the sun. If you are going to be outdoors for extended periods, look for cool places in the shade to relax.
Summer SAD can take the fun out of your summer and your life. Understand your seasonal summer depression to manage it, but also find treatment from experienced, caring and understanding professionals.