You’ve probably heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s often associated with the shorter and colder winter months -- which affects around five percent of Americans. However, there are also millions of people in the spring and summer months.
“Both summer SAD and winter SAD people can experience the full range of symptoms of major depressive disorder—depressed mood, hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness and nihilism,” Ian Cook, a professor of psychiatry and bioengineering and director of the UCLA Depression Research & Clinic Program, told Smithsonian.com.
But, there are key differences.
Unlike those struggling with winter depression, people with summer depression have symptoms like insomnia, weight loss, anxiety, and are more agitated. If these symptoms aren’t addressed, this can lead to serious health issues. Also, those who depressed during the summer are at a higher risk of suicide.
What causes it?
“For some people, summer depression may be caused by biology,” writes Talkspace therapist Shannon McFarlin. “ It’s always important to have a conversation with your doctor about any persistent changes in your mood or state of mind: if you notice significant changes in your sleeping and eating patterns, or if you turn to alcohol for comfort.”
There are also some other factors such as “changes in sleep routines and eating habits, body image concerns, or increased family responsibilities outside of the same work schedule,” adds McFarlin. Other causes could be the season when you were born, allergies, or being exposed to too much heat and light.
However, most medical professionals can’t pinpoint an exact cause. Because of this, treatment is often conducted on a case-by-case basis.
How you can deal with the summertime blues.
While treatment does vary from person to person, there are some ways that you can try and beat the summertime blues.
Examine why you feel this way.
“Do you feel lonely because you actually have no one to spend time with, or because the people in your life aren’t meeting your needs?” asks Alyssa Mairanz, Therapist, LMHC, DBTC on OKclarity. “Both are valid, but it’s important to examine the cause of your feelings so you can pinpoint how to deal with them.”
“Are you bored because you have no plans, or because the things you have to do are not interesting to you?” continues Mairanz “Knowing where you stand in the present circumstance will help you determine how to move forward.”
Also, do your best “to get clear on what’s missing so you have an easier time filling it. Solving the wrong problem won’t get you where you want to go, so first get crystal clear on what the issues and feelings are.”
Do something that you enjoy.
Make the time to do things that you enjoy doing. It’s a great way to shift your focus to something more positive. This could be reading, writing, hiking, volunteering, pampering yourself, or picking up a new hobby.
Don’t neglect your health and wellness.
It’s so easy to neglect your health during the summer between things like vacations and barbecues. Not to mention, the weather can almost make it unbearable to exercise.
However, stick to your sleep and exercise routines as much as possible. Keep eating healthy and stay hydrated. If the heat is an issue, consider exercising early in the morning before it gets too hot. Or, do physical activities like swimming or exercising indoors where it’s air-conditioned.
Also, yoga and meditation can help reduce any stress and anxiety you may be feeling.
Manage your body temperature.
If you’re experiencing discomfort and can not cope with the sun and/or heat, then make sure that you manage your body temperature by staying in air-conditioned environments, keep the blinds drawn, and take cold showers. Like exercising, if do want or need to get outside, go when it’s not as hot. such as early in the morning or during the evening.
“The ‘Fear Of Missing Out.’ It’s a very real thing,” writes Steven Schroeck on Odyssey. “You see people posting pictures and videos on Instagram and Snapchat and you overwork yourself, thinking about how you’re missing out on hanging out with people.”
“Also, if you haven’t been on any social media for a while, you become anxious about missing out on the latest news. Constantly worrying about these things can make your stress levels rise,” says Schroeck.
Personally, I think the summer would be a perfect time to take a break from social media altogether. Doing so comes with benefits like improved sleep, not comparing yourself to others, and helping you become more mindful and present.
Talk to your doctor or therapist.
Finally, be honest with yourself and admit that you’re experiencing signs of depression. This way you can make an appointment with your doctor or therapist. From there, they can suggest the most effective ways for you to chase away your summertime blues.
Remember, you must take depression seriously no matter what time of year it is. The sooner you can get professional help the better.