Most Seasonal Affective Disorder suffers are feeling better right now. The sun is shining, and many people are out enjoying the nice weather every chance they can get. But there are a few people out there that are waiting for summer to get over. That’s right, there are people that have summer depression.
As hot weather approaches, those with summer SAD sleep less, eat less, and lose weight. They’re extremely irritable and agitated. (It’s the reverse for people with winter SAD, who sleep more, gain weight and crave high-carb foods, and tend to slow down and socially hibernate from late fall to early spring.)
It is thought that summer-onset depression affects less than one percent of the population, making it much rarer than the winter SAD that is experienced by about ten percent of the population.
In its most severe form, people with summer seasonal depression may be more at risk for suicide than cold-weather SAD. Suicide is more of a concern when people are depressed and agitated rather than depressed and lethargic.
Experts recommend staying cool with cold showers, air conditioning, swimming in cold lakes, or heading north to cooler climes if you can. Since people tend to drink more alcohol in the summer, be careful of your consumption, since alcohol is a depressant. Although these treatments for hot-weather depression are useful for some, they lack the staying power that light-box therapy has on winter SAD.
A person with summer SAD can stay inside, crank up the AC, and darken the room but then go outside into the heat and it’s as if they’ve never been treated. Another idea is that it might be the light itself that’s aggravating sufferers, whether it’s the intensity of sunlight or the angle it’s coming at people.
Still another possibility is that there may be two kinds of warm-weather depression. There might be one group of people who have an unpleasant reaction to the heat and humidity — a discomfort with the climate.
For those that have their circadian rhythms misaligned during the summer, it might be because of the longer exposure to daylight is causing some vulnerable people to cue at dusk. Dusk is shortening the typical body clock and delays a person’s sleep-wake cycle thus triggering depression.
People with summer depression have been treated with a combination of getting early morning sunlight (30 to 60 minutes daily), which shifts the body clock forward, and low-dose melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. Severe symptoms may also benefit from antidepressants.