This month as your mental health resident Doctor here at Lyric Health, I want to discuss a mood disorder that usually occurs in the late fall and winter months when it is colder and there is less sunlight.
- Increased appetite (especially comfort foods)
- Weight gain
- Social withdrawal
However, Winter SAD may begin to lessen or go away during spring and summer, because of more day and sunlight. Some people have a milder version called the Winter Blues. Winter SAD affects 3 to 4% of the US population. Those who experience Winter SAD, are more at risk for this mood disorder if they have a pre-existing history of depression or bipolar disorder.
However, 10% of the population with seasonal affective disorder experience the opposite of Winter SAD, it called Summer SAD. It is caused by the emotional and physical discomfort that comes with hot, sunny, and humid weather. Unlike the sluggishness that comes with Winter SAD.
Summer SAD symptoms include:
- Reduced appetite
Being the opposite of Winter Sad, Summer SAD begins to diminish or go away in the colder months and does not flourish colder climates.
Very few people are aware that Summer SAD exists, since it appears that most people love those hazy, crazy days of summer or crave warmer climates.
After all, you don’t often hear people say, “I can’t wait to retire to a cold climate, with shorter days and less sunshine!” In fact, the pressure of having to fit in with everyone else and enjoying the hot and sunny weather is a contributing factor to the emotional discomfort that comes with Summer SAD.
But there are many other significant causes of Summer SAD. As with those who experience Winter SAD, people with Summer SAD are more at risk for this mood disorder if they have a pre-existing history of depression or bipolar disorder. Another risk factor is allergies to pollen that can cause cytokine reactions. As anyone with severe or seasonal allergies can attest, the symptoms are not just physically disconcerting and intolerable, but can also result in irritability, agitation and loss of appetite.
Also, people who are very bothered by humidity and heat, or because of their extremely light skin color, sunburn very easily, often find themselves miserable during the Summer or in the warmer climates, because while everyone is out tanning and enjoying the weather, they must stay in the shade or indoors. It can feel like life is passing them by.
The good news of course is that people with seasonal affective disorders do not have to live a life of unhappiness, as there are treatments available. For Winter SAD, psychotherapy, light therapy, anti-depressant medications, and vitamin D have been found to be helpful. As well, there are viable and common-sense treatment options for people with Summer SAD. The more clinical treatments include psychotherapy, anti-depressants (for depression) and mood stabilizers (for bipolar disorder). But there are there are also practical options for managing Summer SAD, such as working or sleeping in cool rooms including basements, wearing sunglasses, and taking frequent cold showers or cooling the wrists. Of course, air conditioners and fans are essential parts of their homes in the summer months. Also exercise, and better management of stressors that cause Summer SAD are important.
If you are experiencing Summer SAD, it would be very helpful to explain and educate your family and friends about your condition, so that they can be more supportive and inclusive in activities that are not only centered on hot and sunny weather.
Finally, if you know someone with Summer SAD, understand that not everyone is a sun worshipper or embraces hot weather, and it doesn’t make them different or less than. The reality of the world is that some people “like it hot” while others really want to be cool! If you or anyone in your life might be suffering please connect them with our team of mental health counselors, therapist or psychologist, and let them know its ok to not be ok.