Summertime Sadness: 8 Things to Know About Summer SAD | Guest Post by Mia Barnes

When you think of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you probably imagine someone who gets blue in the winter. However, some people experience symptoms during the opposite time of the year.

What causes what Lana del Rey called “summertime sadness?” How is it similar to the winter version, and what differentiates it? Here are eight things you should know about summer SAD.

1. The Symptoms Are Slightly Different Than in Winter

Scientists have long associated SAD in the winter with the lack of sunlight people experience during short winter days. This belief has a scientific basis, and many people with this form of the disorder benefit from special light therapy, which mimics the sun’s rays.

While many of the symptoms are the same, summer SAD has some unique symptoms. Both disorders increase feelings of sadness and hopelessness and changes in appetite and sleeping habits. However, your depression might manifest more as extreme irritability in the summer, whereas in winter, you’re more likely to withdraw into a “hibernating” version of yourself.

2. Sunlight May Play a Reverse Role

Summer SAD may have to do with sunlight, but the problem isn’t too little of it. Instead, your symptoms might arise from exposure to too much illumination.

You might be more susceptible to this disorder if the increased light exposure causes physical symptoms to worsen. For example, while folks with conditions like arthritis might welcome summer’s heat for easing aching joints, those with migraine disease often suffer more frequent attacks due to the combination of high humidity and long days of bright light.

Even without any pain increase, the long days can start to affect you physically. You might find it harder to sleep, especially if you’re a shift worker who now finds themselves lying down as the day has seemingly just begun instead of returning home while darkness still holds sway.

3. Where You Live Might Play a Role

Your location may likewise play a role. Summer SAD tends to strike those who live closer to the equator. In some cases, the underlying cause might not be excessive light but rather heat and humidity. For example, those who reside in places like Phoenix, AZ, might find they rarely venture outdoors in the summer, as trapped in the air conditioning as those in the northeast are shut in their homes by winter blizzards.

4. Those With Sensory Processing Disorders Might Be More Susceptible

Another clue that scientists use to pinpoint the heat and humidity as factors in summer SAD is that people with sensory processing disorders are more prone to the condition than others. Sensory processing disorder affects those who process the things they see, smell, taste and touch differently than others.

While children primarily experience sensory processing disorder, it sometimes occurs in adults. Such individuals are more likely to experience daily items like clothing as unpleasant or itchy, driving themselves to distraction to rid themselves of the unwanted sensation. A similar phenomenon may occur when summertime temperatures cause them to feel perpetually moist and sweaty.

5. Allergies Could Contribute

If you have seasonal allergies, you might be more prone to summer SAD. Researchers found a link between increased pollen counts and symptoms of the disorder.

Researchers evaluated a sample of college students in the District of Columbia region over three years, administering a questionnaire. They found a relationship between worsening pollen counts and depression in those with summer SAD, but not the winter form of the disorder.

6. So Can High Heat and Humidity

Even if you don’t have allergies or a sensory processing disorder, summer’s high heat and humidity levels can spur depression symptoms. Many people complain about a lack of energy as the dog days drag on and September’s breezes feel like a distant memory.

One way you might ease your symptoms is by controlling these factors. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, consider installing a unit to better regulate the temperature. A dehumidifier sometimes helps if you have a cool room like your basement that nevertheless feels damp.

You might find that you sleep better at night by applying this strategy. Experts state that most people sleep best in temperatures close to 65°F, lower than the outside reaches during July and August in many areas.

7. Other Mental Disorders Can Exacerbate Symptoms

If you are prone to anxiety and depression, you might find that your symptoms worsen during the summer. Any of the above factors might play a role.

One additional mental factor may contribute to your summer SAD — guilt. Summer’s long days can make you feel as if you are missing out or that there is more you should be doing to bring about the changes you hope to see in your life. The resulting feelings of regret if you “waste time” by relaxing with a movie instead of working on a project can increase feelings of nervousness or worthlessness.

8. Treatment Can Improve Your Mood

Regardless of the underlying cause of your summer SAD, treatment can improve your mood. Sometimes, you do not need to visit a professional. Self-help techniques, such as installing blackout curtains in your bedroom to imitate artificial night and keeping yourself out of excessive heat and humidity, can do the trick.

However, please seek professional care if you still find yourself struggling. A combination of medications and talk therapy can help you find relief.

SAD does not only strike during the winter. It is just as important to educate yourself on the common signs and symptoms of summer SAD.