Turns out Lana Del Ray might have got it right when she warbled on about summertime sadness.
Because though we think of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as mainly a winter thing (shorter days, miserable weather, getting dark at 4pm – makes sense!), the depressive disorder can totally strike in the summer too.
And it’s probably more common than you think.
While up to 29% of the UK population suffer from some degree of SAD, according to a study from The Weather Channel and YouGov, Isabel Leming, Senior Technician at mental health clinic Smart TMS, says that approximately 10% of people who are affected by SAD have what’s known as Reverse SAD – or summer SAD.
Though the causes of Reverse SAD aren’t properly understood, there are several factors that could potentially contribute to the onset of depression in the summer months…
What’s not to love about long, lazy summer days? “It is speculated that the onset of symptoms may be a result of the longer days, with a suggestion that the increase in heat and humidity might also play a role, but there is currently no evidence to support this,” explains Leming.
“In winter SAD reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression and the change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood. As these have been linked to winter SAD, serotonin and melatonin levels are also suggested to be factors in reverse SAD but this has not been confirmed as a cause.”
Seeing everyone else enjoying the sun can lead to FOMO, and, more seriously, depression. “Along with the longer days and shorter nights, summer also brings a different mood than the other seasons, particularly as other people may be in higher spirits due to the warmer climate and more exposure to the sun,” Leming says.
“If you have experienced depression, you may be more vulnerable to having a depressive episode,” she continues. “In addition, if you begin to feel a sense of imbalance and are not at the same level of happiness as others around you, you may begin to feel guilty and anxious for not sharing the same optimism. This could precipitate reverse SAD.”
Hello worst hay fever ever! “Some experts suggest that allergies may also play a role in impacting people’s moods,” Leming explains. “It is theorised that some allergens can cause inflammation in the airways and for vulnerable people this could trigger depression. The increase of pollen (one of the most common allergens) in the spring and summer months could be what triggers reverse SAD.”
Symptoms of Reverse SAD
Leming explains that the symptoms of summer SAD might be quite mild to begin with at the end of spring but become more severe as the summer season progresses.
“While winter SAD symptoms focus on low energy symptoms, reverse SAD symptoms are more centred on agitation and irritability related symptoms,” she explains.
Some of these symptoms might include:
Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
Agitation or anxiety
Though there is currently no treatment for reverse SAD Leming has some tips that might help reduce symptoms:
Sleep in a darkened room
“As insomnia is one of the main symptoms of reverse SAD, blocking out as much sunlight when you are trying to sleep could be key to getting a good night’s sleep and letting your body clock know it’s time to sleep.”
Get regular exercise
“Exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.”
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
“TMS is a NICE approved treatment for depression that effectively modulates brain activity, leading to a reduction in symptoms and it has been shown to treat SAD safely and effectively.”
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