These are the 4 Signs You're Suffering from Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder

·5-min read
Photo credit: Sophie Mayanne - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sophie Mayanne - Getty Images

While it feels like most of the country waits all year for the onset of longer days and shorter nights, do you ever feel yourself dreading the warmer months? Rather than anticipating basking in the park, sunglasses on and ice-y drink in hand, might you find yourself preferring to shut your curtains and stay indoors?

If so, you may be dealing with summer seasonal affective disorder, also known as summer SAD, reverse SAD, or summer depression.

What is summer seasonal affective disorder?

You’ve probably heard of winter SAD, which occurs during the cold season and is triggered by a lack of light and warmth. This causes a biochemical imbalance in the brain and results in symptoms like a persistent low mood and a lack of energy.

If you need to speak to someone about your mental health, you can call the Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393. You can also speak to your GP

It's less likely, though, that you are familiar with its summery counterpart. Thought to impact 1% of people, it's less common than the former, which 10-20% of the population are thought to struggle with. (Note: the NHS describes both forms of the condition as 'seasonal affective disorder,' but states that some people who suffer have symptoms during the summer and feel better in the winter.)

If you struggle with summer depression, you'll know that it generally impacts you from June to September and is largely down to how the season affects your sleep. 'Summer SAD is the experience of low mood and potentially depression that links to the change of the season,' Dr Sophie Mort, a clinical psychologist and author of A Manual For Being Human, tells WH.

'Most people have heard of winter SAD, but few realise that the longer, sunnier days, and heat, can make a small subset of people feel low in mood, too, as it messes up our circadian rhythm (your internal sleep-wake body clock).'

What are the symptoms of summer seasonal affective disorder?

There are a few key signs that indicate you’re suffering from summer SAD. You can expect them to materalise between the months of June and September, and most crossover with the symptoms that come with winter SAD. Dr Mort says these are the classic ones to look out for.

1. Low mood

You may find yourself feeling less happy than you do during winter – this will be persistent, and you’ll find it hard to get pleasure from the things that might usually put a smile on your face in other months.

2. Anxiety

You may find yourself worrying over things that wouldn’t normally concern you during winter.

3. Interrupted sleep

This is one of the most common seasonal affective disorder summer signs, and it comes down to your circadian rhythm – more on this below.

4. Changes in appetite

If you have a tendency to comfort eat in hard times, you may find that you eat more during summer. By the same token, if you struggle to eat when you’re anxious, reverse seasonal affective disorder sufferers may completely lose their appetite, and so see weight loss.

What are the most common summer seasonal affective disorder causes?

Much like its symptoms, the bottom line causes of summer SAD, or summer depression, are similar to that of winter SAD.

Longer days

'Like winter SAD, the reason some people suffer with summer SAD links to the changes in the levels of light we are exposed to during the day,' Dr Mort tells WH. 'We are exposed to so much light during summer, that some of us may stop producing melatonin.

'This is the hormone responsible for our circadian rhythm (i.e. it tells us when we should go to sleep and wake up), and so when it’s unbalanced, we struggle to sleep. In turn, this can leave us feeling sluggish and low in mood.'

Allergies

Sick of feeling like you watch to scratch your eyeballs out when hayfever hits? This could also be a cause of summer seasonal affective disorder.

'Many people manage hayfever by staying indoors,' Dr Mort says. 'Turning down outdoor social events might alleviate allergies, but it can lead to you feeling alone, or like you’re missing out. Socialising is, as we all know, proven to help boost your mood.'

How can I manage summer seasonal affective disorder?

1. Seek shade

'Seeking shade and low-lit rooms, particularly in the evenings, will help you wind down ahead of sleep,' Dr Mort advises. 'This will also encourage your brain to produce the melatonin needed to keep your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) working regularly.'

Blackout blinds and an eye mask is a game-changing combo. WH editor Claire Sanderson is a big fan of this silk mask from Net-A-Porter.

2. Keep cool

'Try not to overheat,' Dr Mort recommends. Keep your windows open when you can, and add ice to your drinks.

3. Exercise

'Expending energy and getting your heart racing leads to an increase in endorphins and other feel-good hormones, while breaking down the ones that make you feel stressed,' Dr Mort says.

Feeling tired from a workout will also help you get a good night’s kip – just don’t overdo it with high-intensity training that could increase the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) you’re producing, and opt for something such as dynamic Pilates, or power yoga, instead.

4. Stick to a routine

The stability of a regular routine will help you feel 'grounded' and 'in control', while you’re uncertain of why you feel the way you do, and how to manage it, so says Mort. 'A routine will also create structure, which can be helpful for all of us as summer often means a busier social life – particularly following lockdown.'

Dr Mort adds that the more we stick to a regular routine, the more likely our circadian rhythm will settle, and we’ll nod off in no time.

5. Seek professional help

'If you feel really anxious or low in mood, and it’s starting to get in the way of your day-to-day activities, seek help. There are professionals who can help you feel better.'

There are plenty of resources on mental health charity Mind’s website, or you could speak to your GP who can advise on possible treatments.

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