While the cold seasons are commonly familiarized with the winter blues, summer times are considered the season of relaxation and happiness. However, for many, anxiety and depression can be associated with the warm months, a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is a form of depressive condition that comes and goes with seasonal patterns. It begins and ends at around the same time every year, with symptoms starting to show in the fall and well into the winter months. However, SAD can occur for some people during the summer months. Left untreated, summer depression can drain the patient’s energy and make them feel moody.
D’Amore Mental Health examines each patient’s medical and psychological history and uses this information to provide the best possible treatment modalities. We understand each patient’s condition is different and requires an independent approach from diagnosis to treatment.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a subtype of a major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder with a seasonal pattern. The condition can affect the patient’s sleep pattern, mood, appetite, and energy levels, draining almost all aspects of their lives, from their social life and work to relationships.
SAD mainly affects people living in the higher, more northern latitudes and is more pronounced in younger people and females than in men. The patient may feel completely different from who they were during other times of the year. Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, stress, or tension become more overwhelming with no interest in activities you usually enjoy.
Signs & Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
The signs and symptoms of SAD are pretty similar to those of major depression, which can result in one condition being misdiagnosed for the other. Our professional and compassionate staff at D’Amore Mental Health use evidence-based research to distinguish SAD from depression.
This segment highlights common symptoms of SAD, including:
Lack of Motivation to Perform Normal Everyday Activities
SAD patients often struggle to stay in the moment with friends and family. It becomes more challenging to finish even the most minor, simplest tasks. These symptoms could indicate SAD.
Patients tend to feel unhappy or negative about almost everything. The cause of the irritability feels abstract as the increased emotional intensity overwhelms you. This could signal an imbalance in serotonin levels.
Summer months are typically seen as a time of socialization and leisure. However, that is not the case for everybody. People constrained by work or other factors may be unable to go on frequent vacations or participate in summer activities. These limitations can increase the symptoms associated with SAD during the summer months.
As an individualized condition, SAD impacts people differently. It may affect some people mildly, which may be easier to treat. However, in more severe cases, SAD can show more intense symptoms, including suicidal ideation.
Other symptoms may include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- A persistent low mood
- Appetite and weight changes
- Decreased sex drive
- Craving carbohydrates (gaining weight)
- Feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day
- Feelings of despair
SAD symptoms’ severity varies from person to person, often depending on their genetic vulnerability and geographic location. These symptoms usually begin mildly and progressively worsen from the start of the season. Then, the symptoms lift until the patient is in remission and feels normal from the beginning of the changing season.
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder in Summer?
The exact cause of SAD is unclear; studies attribute winter SAD to the reduction of daylight hours in the winter months. The shorter days and reduced sunlight exposure in winter are thought to be disruptive to some people’s systems. However, some of the causes may be slightly different for summer SAD.
Some known causes of SAD include:
People respond to changes in daytime hours differently. The body’s internal clock has difficulty regulating changes like mood, sleep, and appetite. The sudden change to longer nights and shorter days in winter can disrupt some people’s internal clock, resulting in feelings of disorientation, grogginess, and sleepiness at inconvenient times. The same things can be said in the summer when there are longer daylight hours.
Production of Serotonin
People may stay inside during the summer season, especially in hot climates. In warm temperatures, people may stay inside to avoid heat and humidity. Staying inside and out of natural sunlight can play a role in serotonin production.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. A deficit in serotonin may lead to depression and affect sleep, memory, appetite, and sexual desire.
During the warmer months, people may feel more pressure to plan fun activities or go on trips. Summer is a popular time for people to leave their homes and go on vacation or enjoy leisurely activities. However, many people do not have the luxury of spending their summer on vacation or relaxing.
NOTE: different causes and other contributing factors may lead to SAD. That’s why it is essential to talk to a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis of SAD symptoms and appropriate treatment options to consider.
Medication and Psychotherapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Treatment for SAD typically includes a combination of medication and therapy (Cognitive behavioral therapy). But the range of treatment options available for SAD patients depends on the treatment programs they find most suitable. It is essential to seek guidance on treatment from a medical professional.
The main treatments for SAD include:
Antidepressant medications have proved to be the most effective medications for SAD. SSRI antidepressants such as bupropion (Wellbutrin) act on serotonin levels in the brain to control SAD symptoms.
But as with all antidepressants, patients may experience some adverse effects. Before starting medication, it is also essential to weigh the benefits of antidepressants against the risks. This is especially true for children and young adults.
This popular and effective treatment option for SAD uses a specialized lamp that mimics sunlight to trigger the positive effects of someone being exposed to sunlight. The treatment lightbox should produce at least 10,000 lux of light and emit as little ultraviolet light as possible.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This therapy option has also proved highly beneficial for people with SAD. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) curbs negative thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes that worsen SAD symptoms. CBT also helps patients learn how to manage their symptoms and deal with stresses associated with SAD in healthy ways.
One primary benefit of using CBT to treat seasonal affective disorder is that it has no dangerous side effects.
Get Help for Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder
Watching a loved one struggle with seasonal affective disorder can be heartbreaking. Our professional and compassionate staff at D’Amore Mental Health offers round-the-clock care to help all patients dealing with SAD.
D’Amore Mental Health creates holistic, customized, and personalized treatment plans for all patients. This connection enables us to build in-depth relationships with patients with SAD and other mental health issues.