What is summer depression and the seasonal affective disorder?
Is it actually possible to have a summer depression? Due to changes in the weather and how we adapt to them, seasonal affective disorders (SAD) are a real thing. Seasonal depression is a pattern-based mood disorder, and it’s commonly associated with the colder, despairing times of winter. But in the summer, when sweltering heat, greater sunlight, and social stressors overwhelm, seasonal depression can also manifest.
So what causes this seasonal affective disorder—or we should say summer depression, now that we are getting into the warmer months? Let’s first address the terminology. Seasonal affective disorder is more often referred to as major depressive disorder (MDD) with a seasonal pattern. Cases that arise in the summer may be the result of prolonged sun exposure, as sunshine is thought to be the key to major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern.
The production of our melatonin, the hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycle, is suppressed by excessive sunshine. Its production can even be stopped by simply turning on a light in the middle of the night. The summer heat has been reported to make people with MDD more agitated and irritated, in addition to interrupting their circadian cycle from the bright sunlight. This may also lead to other symptoms including anxiety, insomnia, reduced appetite, violent behavior, and weight loss.
Major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern is more prevalent in some people. Females are usually more affected than males, although men have reported more severe symptoms. There also seems to be a genetic component linked to MDD, just like other mood disorders. Studies have shown that living closer to the equator and in hotter temperatures can also impact the amount of cases of MDD.
There are a number of ways to treat MDD, from diet to antidepressants to using air-conditioning. Other methods to help with this down-dragging summer depression include spending more time doing activities in darker, dim-lit rooms. More importantly, it’s highly advised to speak with a healthcare provider who can recommend what suits your needs the most.