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Summer SAD?

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Excerpted: Glamour Magazine by Sagal Mohammed  

SAD in the winter, but SAD in the summer is very real too.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD, is often synonymous with winter. It’s no secret that the long dark days and cold nights can trigger inescapable feeling of depression, exhaustion and anxiety. However, summertime SAD is just as real.

Also known as major depressive disorder (MDD) with seasonal pattern, SAD is a type of depression correlating with seasonal change. While it is often linked with the reduced light and gloomy weather that winter brings, some people suffer from it as a result of increased sunshine and warmer temperatures, as well as societal pressure.

“SAD is known as “‘winter depression’ because the symptoms are usually more present during the winter,” says psychologist, author and therapist, Dr. Kalanit Ben-Ari. “However, 10% of people with SAD may have reversed symptoms, whereby they feel better during the winter, but worse during the summer.”

What causes summertime depression?

It sounds confusing, we know. In the winter, the lack of sunlight is what is believed to cause SAD, so how can it also affect people in the summer? Well, health experts have explained that SAD cases that occur during the summer months may be a result of too much sun.

This is because too much sunlight turns off melatonin production in your body. Melatonin is the hormone that drives your sleep-wake cycle, so the longer days brought by summer can cause a lack of melatonin in your body. Summer SAD also has some of the opposite side affects of winter SAD, which can cause weight gain and sleepiness among other symptoms. Instead, summer SAD can result in weight loss, difficulties with sleeping and just feeling miserable.

You may also be noticing some of the effects of summer SAD because of social reasons. If everyone around you is having fun and enjoying themselves – particularly post-lockdown as socialising resumes – this can make you feel guilty or ‘abnormal’ for feeling down.

“There is not a clear consensus about the causes of SAD, but I believe that body and mind are interconnected, so the cause is not purely physical,” says Dr. Ben-Ari. “Our body affects our mind, and vice versa. Past events in our life, as well as our current challenges and stress levels can also increase the symptoms of SAD. Yet, the longer daylight hours of the summer often leads to less sleep, more heat and humidity, and seasonal concerns over body-image are also cited as common triggers for SAD.”

Common symptoms of Summer SAD:

  • Agitation
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased restlessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss