When the weather warms up and folks begin eagerly planning their summer vacations, do you find yourself feeling blue? If so, you may be experiencing reverse SAD, a version of seasonal affective disorder which strikes people in the summertime. People who experience summer depression "tend to experience a decrease in their overall mental well-being when the temperatures begin to rise," explains mental health writer Mason Komay.
Though summer SAD is much less common than winter SAD — only about 10 percent of American adults experience it — many psychologists agree that it is a legitimate form of depression. In 1987, a study of 12 people who "regularly became depressed during the summer" was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Since then, more studies have been conducted, showing that for some people, there is a link between hot summer weather and feeling down in the dumps.
So, how can you tell if you are experiencing reverse SAD? "It's believed that it returns at the same time each year, creating an observable pattern, which both the patient and the caregiver can identify," says Komay.
A good indication that you are experiencing reverse SAD is that you are unhappy when summer begins — and not depressed at all when the weather cools during the fall and winter.
Other symptoms of reverse SAD include insomnia, weight loss, decreased appetite, difficulty concentrating or making decisions and feeling that the sun is too bright.
However, the symptoms of summer SAD differ from those of winter SAD. "The winter types are slow-thinking, slow-moving. The summer types are sometimes energized and agitated in a way that isn't very pleasant," says Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, who was the first to write about SAD in a scientific journal.
One way you can ascertain whether you are experiencing reverse SAD is by keeping a mood journal. Then, you can look for patterns of seasonal mood swings. Tonya Ladipo, who is a licensed clinical social worker, recommends doing this and seeking professional mental health help if you have been experiencing depression for more than two weeks.
Additionally, it's important get enough rest. "Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day," says Komay.
You can also wear protective eyewear if the sunlight is bothering you and keep to a schedule if your life is feeling out of control. Finally, if the summer heat is bringing you down, Dr. Rosenthal suggests taking cold showers or baths.
If you suspect you are feeling extra low during the summer months, it may be time to seek professional help. "Giving something a name makes it real, as well as something that can be communicated about," says Dr. Susan Rako.
Once you have an answer, you'll be able to give yourself extra TLC every year when the warmer weather rolls around.