Many people experience shifts in mood and periods of sadness during winter when days are shorter with less daylight. Colder months are not the only time of year one can feel blue. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can also bring on the summer blues.
What is SAD?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression characterized by recurrent seasonal patterns with symptoms lasting 4 to 5 months each year. Many SAD symptoms align with those suffering from major depression and can vary from person to person. Warning signs can include loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, low energy levels, feeling hopeless or worthless, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite or weight, sleep pattern changes, and thoughts of death or suicide. For summer-pattern SAD, additional symptoms may include insomnia, poor appetite leading to weight loss, anxiety, agitation, and even episodes of violent behavior.
What causes SAD?
10% of SAD cases occur during warmer months. Researchers believe it to be caused by too much sunlight and a deficit of melatonin in the brain, throwing serotonin—the happy hormone—off-balance. Some studies suggest that summer-induced SAD is associated with higher temperatures. These studies also indicate there can be an increase in manic behavior in those diagnosed with bipolar depression. Spending time in a darkened, air-conditioned room can bring relief when the light and heat feel overwhelming.
Not all who are affected by SAD experience it in successive seasons. One summer may feel more challenging to manage than the next. Keeping a journal to note how you feel during the day’s events can provide insight and help you track patterns.
If you are experiencing SAD symptoms, our team at Valley Oaks is here to help you see brighter days ahead. No matter the season, we want you to always feel your best year-round.