Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, affects approximately 4 to 6 percent of the US population, according to the Cleveland Clinic. About 10 percent of those people suffer from summer depression, often referred to as reverse SAD. Symptoms include difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, and anxiety. While researchers are not sure of the cause, it may be related to changes in schedules, financial worries, or body image issues. In some cases, the heat simply gets to the sufferer, forcing them indoors to escape the muggy, sweltering outdoor atmosphere.
Treatment for Summer Depression
Treatment for summer depression may include lifestyle changes, therapy, and, in severe cases, medication. One of the potential causes for summer depression is the upset to an established routine that the summer months bring, especially for those with children. For those who thrive on routine, having a plan in place before the summer begins can help alleviate some of the stress and depression. Arrange for necessary childcare before the children get out of school, plot out daytrips and vacations, ask for time off work well in advance, and keep everything outlined on a calendar or day planner.
With childcare arrangements, daytrips, pool passes, vacations, and other summer events, the financial burden of the season can weigh heavily on the mind. Those who are particularly cash-strapped may feel overwhelmed by all the costly activities to which they are invited. Trying to figure out how to come up with the funds to keep everyone entertained or missing out on activities because the money just isn’t there can lead to depression. The key is to prioritize. Skip the activities that are done out of obligation and bring no real enjoyment, and start budgeting months in advance for the activities that top the list.
When heat is the culprit behind summer depression, treatment options focus on staying cool. While hiding out in an air-conditioned house with all the windows locked may sound appealing, the isolation can actually lead to more depression. If venturing outdoors when the sun is blazing high in the sky is about as appealing as nails on a chalkboard, at least try to get outside during the evening, when temperatures are a little cooler. Take a cool shower or go for a swim in an unheated pool. Working out boosts feel-good endorphins, so get plenty of exercise, but take precautions to avoid overheating.
For some sufferers, summer depression stems from a past event that occurred during those months- the death of a loved one, an accident, even a melancholy remembrance of a lost summer love can cause them to relive the events and sink into depression. Individual therapy can be effective in working through the thoughts and feelings associated with those events. Since summer seasonal affective disorder is relatively uncommon, it may also help to find a group of people suffering from the same condition, as those around the sufferer may not understand how the bright, sunshiny days can possibly be brining them down.
If lifestyle changes and therapy aren’t enough to keep summer depression at bay, talk to a physician about medications. The depression may be caused by a serotonin imbalance in the brain, and antidepressants can help balance those chemicals. Since these medications take some time to start working, they may need to be started several months prior to the summer.
Cleveland Clinic: What is Seasonal Depression
WebMD: Summer Depression
Therapy 247: Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder