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Understanding Summer Depression

written by: Alicia Miller • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 4/18/2011

You think you should be enjoying the warm summer months, but instead, you find yourself feeling blue and down in the dumps. In this article, you'll learn about the causes, signs, and symptoms of summer depression, a rare form of seasonal affective disorder.

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    Signs and Symptoms of Summer Depression

    The weather is warm and sunny and everyone, except you, seems to be enjoying the beautiful summer months. You feel listless, agitated, depressed, and irritable, and you can't quite figure out what's wrong. It's possible that you're suffering from a rare form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) known as summer depression or summer-onset seasonal affective disorder. Summer depression is a mood disorder that affects relatively few people, unlike the more common form of seasonal affective disorder known as winter depression or winter blues that is experienced by many people due to the lack of exposure to sunlight. A 2002 article in the New York Times points out that while 5% of the population is thought to experience winter depression, less than 1% of the population suffers from summer depression.

    As with most types of depression, more women than men seem to experience symptoms of summer depression. The symptoms of summer-onset seasonal affective disorder include many common depressive symptoms, such as a lowered mood, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, a lack of interest in activities you previously enjoyed and feelings of sadness. However, summer depression differs from winter seasonal affective disorder in a number of ways. Whereas people suffering from winter depression experience an increased appetite, decreased sex drive, and desire more sleep, people with summer depression typically experience insomina, an increased sex drive, and a decreased appetite. People with summer depression usually have an increased level of anxiety, sometimes even manifesting in panic attacks.

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    Causes of Summer Depression

    Like most forms of depression, the causes of summer depression aren't entirely clear. However, researchers believe that summer depression, as with other forms of seasonal affective disorder, stem from several factors. Increased exposure to sunlight can cause changes in your circadian rhythm, resulting in insomina and other depressive symptoms. Where you live can also compound this problem. If you live far from the equator, you experience shorter days during the winter and longer days during the summer, which can wreak havoc on your biological clock. Seasonal changes can also disrupt your levels of melatonin, which can cause changes to your mood, sleep habits and regular eating patterns.

    During the summer, you may also experience changes to your schedule that can leave you feeling off-kilter. For example, if you're prone to depression and you're used to the schedule and structure of school and you're faced with unstructured free time during summer vacation, you may experience an increase in depressive symptoms. Similarly, the warm summer months can trigger feelings of insecurity related to body image. If you normally are uncomfortable with the way you look and you're faced with warm months of wearing less clothing and bathing suits, you may feel depressed if your body doesn't quite look the way you'd like.

    As with other types of depression, genetics also plays a role. If you have a family history of seasonal affective disorder, you may be more prone to experiencing this condition.

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