For most of us summertime is a good time, a time to “stir it up” out in the sun, with lots of fun-filled activities. For others, it is not the happiest of times. Many people who are experiencing feelings of depression in the summer do not realize they are suffering from summer SAD, (seasonal affective disorder).
This is because they mistakenly perceive their “bouts” as a new event rather than a seasonal pattern. ‘We’ve kind of de-seasonalized ourselves,’ says Dr. Thomas Wehr, a research psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health and an expert on both winter and summer SAD. ‘You know, we turn the lights on after dark, we turn the heat on in winter, we turn the air-conditioning on in summer, and you could almost not notice. We tend to think more in a linear way rather than in a cyclic way.’
Summer SAD vs. Winter SAD
Winter SAD suffers typically feel lethargic in the colder months, crave carbohydrates, gain weight, and sleep excessively. Those afflicted with summer SAD often experience: agitation, loss of appetite, insomnia and, in extreme cases, increased suicidal fantasies.
Epidemiological data in the United States has also shown a higher proportion of SAD suffers experience an elevated nighttime body temperature. To treat this symptom, many summer SAD suffers turn up the air-conditioning. Though this can help it isn’t a universal cure. Others take lots of cold showers, however getting back to sleep isn’t all that easy. As with most forms of depression, more women than men suffer from summer SAD. One estimate puts it as high as two to one, the highest being women in their reproductive years. One UK woman reportedly swam every day in the English Channel where the cold water gave her measurable relief. I am sure the endorphins released during her exercise regime didn’t hurt either.
Since antidepressants have been shown to lower brain and body temperature in sleep, the most practical defense for summer SAD is still pharmacological.