Lana Del Rey Was Right About Summertime Sadness — It’s A Real Condition
At this point, we’re all very familiar with the winter blues that affects many of us when the days get shorter and the temperature gets colder. Some of us — researchers estimate around 5 percent of the United States population — suffer from a severe case of the winter blues, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But did you know that SAD can also affect people during the summertime? An estimated 1 percent of the U.S. population experience SAD during the sunny days of summer. Here’s all you need to know about the disorder.
What Are Common Symptoms?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, whether it happens during the months of winter or summer, Seasonal Affective Disorder is characterized by feelings of major depression that follow a seasonal pattern for a period of at least two years. SAD is often hard to diagnose because it is difficult to distinguish from other types of depression, since they all share common symptoms, such as dips in mood and energy, insomnia, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, altered appetite, and difficulty concentrating.
Summer and winter SAD are similar in the fact that they both cause depression-like symptoms linked to a certain season, but there are some common distinctions between symptoms of the two. While those with winter SAD tend to manifest their disorder by sleeping and eating more, those who experience SAD during the summer often lose their appetite and experience some degree of insomnia. Unlike those with winter SAD, those affected during the summer will often appear more agitated rather than lethargic.
What Causes The Disorder?
Although experts can’t yet explain exactly what causes SAD, we do know that it is linked to a disruption to our internal clock. Wintertime SAD is often caused by reduced hours of sunlight, which throws off some of our light-moderated biological processes like our sleep-wake cycle, and the regulation of our mood and energy. The internal clocks of people with summer SAD are likely disrupted by the presence of too much sunlight (if you can believe that’s even a thing) and by excess heat. The fact that most people appear to be having the time of their lives during summer can further add to the feeling of depression and isolation for those with summertime SAD.
Let’s face it, a quick scroll through Instagram would make anyone experiencing symptoms of depression during the summer feel like the odd one out. Other risk factors that could make you more vulnerable to SAD include being a woman (SAD is diagnosed four times more often in women than in men — yep, this and we need to deal with horrible cramps once a month), a family history of depression, being a young adult, and already having been diagnosed with other types of depression or a bipolar disorder.
What Are Your Treatment Options?
So how can you combat the symptoms of summertime SAD when everyone else is too busy having fun at the beach? Other than taking medication, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a type of psychotherapy that aims to identify negative thoughts in order to replace them with more positive thoughts, has been shown to effectively treat those with SAD. Other home remedies include taking frequent cold showers, making use of your air conditioning, and avoiding the outdoors during the peak hot hours in the middle of the day. If you think that you might be experiencing SAD this summer, make sure you consult your doctor to get an expert opinion before self-diagnosing (and no, WebMD does not count as an expert opinion).
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