Editor’s note: Every month, the team at Ravenwood Health posts about a mental-health topic. This month, Ashley Haaser, LPCC-S Director of Emergency and Psychiatric Services, discusses seasonal affective disorder in the summertime.
By Ashley Haaser, LPCC-S Director of Emergency and Psychiatric Services
For some, summer is their favorite time of the year. However, others may experience an increase in sadness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (2013), while the reported incidence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the general population is four to 10 percent, some studies suggest that up to 20 percent of people in the United States may be affected by a mild form of the disorder. In addition, about one in ten people who experience SAD actually experience it during the summer as opposed to in the winter, which is more widely recognized.
SAD during the winter is believed to be linked to a lack of sunlight, but as research shows, the opposite can be just as problematic: too much sunlight and hotter temperatures may play a role in summertime SAD.
Many of the summertime seasonal affective disorder symptoms are similar to typical wintertime presentation, including poor appetite and weight loss, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, and anxiety. Summertime SAD can be complicated; those struggling with SAD may feel pressured from friends and family to participate in activities they don’t have the energy for, and this pressure can exacerbate existing depressive symptoms.
Many may feel they need to just “power through it” since these symptoms can diminish after the summer months. But those living with seasonal depression don’t need to wait for the end of the summer to feel better! There are several steps that can be taken to help manage symptoms: taking a walk in the evening when it’s cooler outside, keeping a set schedule (disruption to normal routines can increase depressive symptoms), spending time at a place you enjoy that has air conditioning, and talking to a therapist about your symptoms to explore tools you can learn to manage SAD.
While people with seasonal affective disorder may routinely experience several of these symptoms, many other people may experience one or more of these symptoms periodically. Being aware of these tips can help everyone get a little more enjoyment out of their summer.
Ashley is currently reading: The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking.