As the winter months get colder, maybe you notice that you feel tired more often. You start to overeat—even when it’s not Thanksgiving or Christmas. And most importantly, you feel down, but you can’t quite put your finger on what caused your depressed mood.
These are typical symptoms of a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
Most people who have heard of SAD think that it is a type of depression triggered during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight, as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains.
Fewer people are aware that SAD can happen in the summer as well.
What is the Difference Between SAD in the Winter and SAD in the Summer?
In fact, 10% of people diagnosed with SAD have the lesser-known summertime variety, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Its symptoms—and their causes—are essentially the opposite of winter depression. Just as the lack of sunlight triggers winter SAD, some doctors believe that the sun’s abundance and the heat that comes with it triggers summer depression, according to Dr. Norman Rosenthal, one of the first doctors to identify SAD.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
|Winter SAD||Summer SAD|
|Overeating||Loss of appetite|
|Unexplained weight gain||Unexplained weight loss|
|Sleeping more than usual||Insomnia|
How is SAD Treated?
Shorter days in the fall and winter month cause winter SAD, and treatment for winter SAD can come in the form of prescription antidepressants.
4 ways Seasonal Affective Disorder can be harmful:
- Decreases productivity at work
- Reduces your desire to socialize
- Can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts
- Can worsen symptoms for those who are already depressed
Source: American Psychiatric Association
Light therapy can be an effective treatment for people with winter SAD, according to the July 2009 study in the International Journal on Disability and Human Development. The idea is to imitate lighting conditions of sunnier months by regularly basking under a high-brightness light.
People with summer SAD tend to be set off by the heat and the extended daylight hours of summer’s longer days. That means people with summer SAD don’t typically benefit from light therapy.
Dr. Rosenthal suggests via his blog that instead people with summer SAD reduce their exposure to daylight and spend time indoors with air-conditioning to curb symptoms. Also, beginning antidepressant medications early in the season is another course of action that can help.
An older study published in August 2007 in the Journal of Affective Disorders, pointed to allergies and high pollen count as another factor that may contribute to developing summer SAD.
4 Tips For Dealing With SAD
1) Inform friends and family of your condition
Social isolation can make depression worse, which is why having a support network aware of your condition matters so much.
Friends and loved ones can get you to stay active and social. Be open to having someone to confide in during your tougher months.
Physical activity is a great mood booster. Whether your SAD hits in winter or summer, there are plenty of exercises you can do indoors without having to pay a hefty fee to join a gym.
Do a quick YouTube search for videos of yoga routines, make some space in your living room, and enjoy the double benefits of getting exercise and practicing relaxation techniques at the same time.
3) Remember that SAD is temporary
There’s hope around the bend, and in a few months the weather will change in your favor. Hang in there and remind yourself it’s only temporary, but also know when to get help.
4) Talk to your doctor about treatment options
Admitting that your feelings of sadness are more than just the blues is a great first step. The second step: Get help. Talk to a doctor or therapist to see therapies will work for you. There is no need to suffer in silence this season.