Most of us have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and associate it with the winter months. This makes sense since it’s dark and cold during that time of year. And though it is, indeed, more common to feel depressed during the winter, there’s more to SAD than simply that. Read on.
The days are longer, it’s warm and sunny, and everyone is relaxing and having fun. So then, how is it still possible to feel blue? Summer Depression resulting from Seasonal Affective Disorder is hard to wrap our minds around, and it’s mainly because of cognitive dissonance.
Imagine the following scenario: It’s bright, sunny, and inviting out, but you’re still feeling down, withdrawn, and a little sad – just as you may feel during the winter months. So then, how do the different seasons affect seasonal affective disorder?
Both types of Seasonal Affective Disorder are valid and clinically recognized, but the symptoms are very different. People with winter depression tend to eat and sleep more as well as feel generally lethargic. However, people with summer depression tend to experience the opposite: loss of appetite, some agitation, and trouble sleeping. Symptoms that arise with summer depression don’t fall in line with what most of us understand to be depression, so it’s very easy to overlook or dismiss them.
What Causes It?
For some people, summer depression may be caused by biology. 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.
Summer depression can also manifest because of common stressors that usually arise with this time of year: changes in sleep routines and eating habits, body image concerns, or increased family responsibilities outside of the same work schedule. Though routines can be very grounding for some of us, changes – even good ones – can be unsettling as we adjust.
Also, if you are someone who normally eats pretty healthy, summertime feasting can throw the body off biochemically. Not to mention, putting on a bathing suit can be a pretty unpleasant experience for many of us too, so comparing ourselves to others and feeling insecure can be a contributing factor to mood changes.
What to Do:
It’s completely normal to experience different moods, but if you feel like it is interfering with your life, relationships, or happiness try some of these things. There’s no reason to suffer.
- Exercise: Research shows that even light exercise can help lift your mood. If it’s hot out, try swimming or walking on the treadmill in an air-conditioned gym.
- Get enough sleep: When you’re tired, everything feels harder. Make sure you are getting enough rest and not pushing yourself past your limit with all the summer activities.
- Diet: What we eat definitely impacts how we feel, so if you are feeling predominantly grumpy or sad, it could be worth keeping a food diary to see how your mood changes depending on what you eat.
- Get support from trusted friends and a good therapist (I happen to know a few!) : it’s important to talk about what you are going through. Don’t isolate. Instead reach out. Take the signs of depression seriously.
There is nothing to be ashamed of if you are experiencing Summer Depression stemming from Seasonal Affective Disorder, trust us, we have ALL been there.
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