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SAD in the Summer

SAD in the Summer

A Little-known condition that affects many people: Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder (Summer Depression)

Most of us look forward to spring and summer, and no one looks more forward to spring than people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). What many don’t realize is that a smaller group of people suffers on the opposite side of the calendar. This condition is known as Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder or Summer Depression. Summer SAD.

Approximately 5% of adult Americans suffer from Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and less than 1% has its summer variant. Many people who become depressed in the summer may not realize they have this rare form of SAD. They usually see their bouts of depression as new events rather than a pattern.

As with depression in general, more women than men appear to suffer from this condition. Statistics show this ratio to be as high as two to one. It is most common in women in their childbearing years, the onset can come as early as childhood, and the disorder is thought to have a genetic component. More than 2/3 of the people with SAD have a relative with a major mood disorder.

Another confusing trait of Summer Depression is that its symptoms vary from winter SAD. Sufferers of the more common winter SAD typically feel lethargic in the winter, crave carbohydrates, gain weight and sleep excessively. With summer SAD, people often feel agitation, have loss of appetite, insomnia and, in extreme cases, have increased suicidal fantasies.

The causes of the two diseases may differ as well. Winter SAD seems to be linked to increases in the production of melatonin, set off by decreased light. In summer SAD, the trigger is less clear. It is not known whether it is too much heat or too much light that is the trigger. Increases in Summer SAD are reported more often in hotter climates. The higher proportion of people with summer SAD is in the South. The proportion rises as the latitude diminishes.

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In one study, people with severe summer depression were found to have higher temperatures at night. Among healthy people, temperatures tend to drop during the night. During the study, the patients were cooled down with a reverse thermal blanket. Their symptoms decreased. After the treatment was over however, the patients walked out into the summer heat and as their temperatures rose, their symptoms returned; thus showing that re-entering a hot summer environment undid whatever affect the treatment might have had.

Many sufferers of summer SAD have developed their own strategies for combating symptoms, but all are related to cooling the body. Some people make sure they stay in air-conditioned environments; others take frequent cold showers or baths while still others swim daily in cold water to lessen symptoms. For many, their only relief comes from pharmacological defense. Antidepressants lower brain and body temperature, thus reducing their symptoms.

Many people with summer SAD report feeling ‘attacked by the sun’. One woman reported the sun feeling ‘like it’s piercing into me.’ She went on to say, ‘I start to feel more and more desperate to escape it. I have a hard time organizing and managing my daily life. By August, I’m barely able to function and don’t really recover until autumn. October is a good month. I’m waking up, and I feel like I’m being released from summer, what I would call a jail cell.’

The most common symptoms of summer SAD are:

• Poor appetite
Weight loss
• Insomnia
• Agitation and anxiety

In addition, both types of SAD may also include the symptoms present in other kinds of depression such as ongoing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, feelings of guilt, loss of interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed and physical problems such as headaches and stomachaches.

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Some Things to do to Help Cope with Summer SAD:

Drink lots of water. Dehydration leads to irritation
Keep cool with air conditioning or fans
Wear cool clothing of natural fiber
Have thick curtains that can block out the sunlight
Wear sunglasses when out in the sun
Avoid junk food. Eat healthy foods such as lean meat, fish, fruits and vegetables,
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Keep bedroom cool at night
Take vitamin B complex and C and mineral magnesium (you lose this as you perspire).

By seeking medical treatment and trying some of the hints in this article, many symptoms of Summer SAD can be relieved.