Summertime blues are a real thing, and those who suffer can feel seriously out of sync with the rest of the world. Aren’t you supposed to be having fun out by the pool or frolicking in the ocean at the beach? Isn’t there a rule that you should be enjoying fireworks and a barbecue at the endless party that we call summer? If you would rather hide from the sunshine and crank up the AC in a darkened room, you could be suffering from a seasonal affective disorder.
Most people have heard of the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affliction that strikes in the cold, dark days of winter. Learning that summer’s bright days also can spur seasonal affective disorder may come as a surprise, but the accompanying anxiety and depression do exist. Along with the summertime blues comes insomnia, loss of appetite and agitation.
Most recently, the summer disorder has come to be known as major depressive disorder (MDD) with seasonal pattern. There are ways to find relief if you think summer triggers your depression.
Is there such a thing as too much sun?
Researchers think the problem during the summer months may be too much sun interfering with the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that rules your sleeping patterns. Hotter temperatures can also keep you awake and leave you feeling fatigued and irritable.
Fortunately, it’s not true that there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues. If people who live with winter’s SAD symptoms can find relief with light therapy, the opposite is recommended for those suffering from summer’s version of the disorder. Seeking refuge in a darkened room to escape summer’s relentless sunlight can help.
Seek escape from overexposure to light.
An adverse reaction to increased light could be another contributor to your summer sadness. You might feel depressed because of your light sensitivity, or you might be sensitive to light because of your depression. In either case, experimenting with ways to reduce your exposure to light may bring some relief. Make wearing sunglasses a habit. Try blackout shades in your bedroom to reduce the amount of ambient light. Seek out shade when you are outdoors.
Come in to the cool.
Researchers found that summer heat makes those living with MDD with seasonal pattern anxious and angry. Heat is an obvious suspect as several studies have linked high temperatures with depressed and agitated moods.
Finding ways to stay cool may ease some of your symptoms. Go swimming in pools or natural bodies of water or take occasional cold showers. In the old days before cooling systems became widely available in homes, people went to the movies to take advantage of the air conditioning. Following the World War II- era practice and spending more time at your local movie theater (or mall) can save on higher home electrical bills while easing MDD-SP symptoms.
Don’t be afraid to seek help.
The cultural message is that summer is a season of fun and you should feel happy. If you feel worse when everybody around you is having a good time, you can easily think you’re imagining things. Understanding that summer depression is real may give you some validation.
Consulting a healthcare provider can help you find healthy coping strategies. A therapist may help you learn how to how to manage stress, while a doctor may recommend medication to relieve anxiety.