Seasonal Affective Disorder: Summertime Sadness
By: Alexandra Nguyen
Alexandra Nguyen is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s of Arts in Journalism at Loyola Marymount University. From a young age, she has had a passion for writing, which later developed into focusing on how her words can make an impact on the world. The world of healthcare was exposed to her through her volunteer work at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Palto Alto. Working
side-by-side with patients and doctors, this role gave her a glimpse into public health. Alexandra combines her passions and experiences writing for Today’s Patient to educate society on lesser-known topics, especially those affecting young adults.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is most often associated with the winter months; because shorter days with less sunlight can offset behavior with feelings of fatigue and hopelessness. However, can too much sun also offset behavior? Yes.
Unlike its counterpart, summertime depression is less widely discussed. A season that marks the end of the school year and that is celebrated for the warm weather and all of the activities that come with it are not so fun for everyone. Just like the winter months, the summer months can also trigger feelings of anxiety and depression.
Although it is lesser known, it functions similarly to all forms of seasonal depressions. That is, it occurs during the same time every year and lasts for a certain period. In this instance, it would begin when daylight hours are prolonged and will end when they shorten. As of now, no one knows the true cause of SAD, but researchers link it to the changes in the biological clock per the changes in daylight. Our biological clock dictates the innate process that controls sleep, mood, and hormones. So, when daylight increases, the biological clock may shift causing a change in sleep, mood, and hormones, like apathy.
The heat and humidity can lead to the symptoms of summertime depression, which include trouble sleeping, anxiety, and a loss of appetite. A common cause is the lack of routine that the summertime can warrant for some individuals. During this time, a strict school or work routine softens with the many vacations and holidays. Especially for students their sleep and eating
habits can be easily disrupted contributing to seasonal summer depression. The heat also warrants people to wear shed layers and wear less clothing. Whether it is a bathing suit or a tank top, the warm season can cause body image issues creating personal and social anxieties. For those who do not enjoy being out in the Sun, June through August might become a time of
hiding out in an air-conditioned room. Ditching outings and staying alone to beat the heat can also create a sense of loneliness and a lack of interest in usual activities.
Being aware of summertime depression can help you to identify potential triggers. Knowing what triggers can help you to acknowledge which ones may be affecting you and find ways to help combat them. If the lack of routine and long sunny days disrupt sleep schedules, sleep becomes a main priority. Prioritizing sleep can help to improve overall well-being and to promote
a healthy lifestyle. Some helpful habits to combat irregular sleep schedules could be journaling, meditating, minimizing screen time, or listening to white noise before bed. With no school and a relaxed schedule, establishing a routine encourages motivation and productivity. Additionally, with the weather changes, trying to find a balance between hot and cold is crucial. It is important to get outside and get some vitamin D, but also as important as it is to be in a cool environment. Switching between the two, while finding ways to carry out your day-to-day activities in both will stimulate balance and will not cause an abundance of either.
Roughly 6 percent of Americans deal with SAD and about 10 percent of them endure it during the summertime. SAD is a serious matter with various plans of action to help combat it. With that, seeking professional help from a doctor or talking to a therapist are other options that will truly make a difference.
It can be difficult feeling down during the season when the sun when it seems like almost everyone is outside enjoying themselves. Yet, it is normal to feel the opposite. Everybody’s emotions, triggers, and troubles differ, but like most things, that can always be worked on. For those dealing with summertime depression, there are many habits that can be instilled into their daily life to help lessen the symptoms.