Home Life Causes, symptoms and treatment for SAD

Causes, symptoms and treatment for SAD

by Patricia R. Mills

Seasonal depression is a mood disorder with a pattern. People typically associate it with winter, when colder months and shorter days leave people feeling sluggish, agitated, and hopeless. But seasonal depression can also appear in summer when stifling heat, more sunlight, and social stressors overwhelm.

“Seasonal affective disorder is experiencing symptoms of depression during a particular season,” says Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director at The National Alliance on Mental Illness. “The symptoms are severe enough at times to meet criteria for major depressive disorder.”

USA TODAY spoke with Crawford about factors that may drive summer seasonal depression, who is most at risk, and how those suffering can cope.Causes, symptoms and treatment for SAD

Question: What causes summer seasonal depression?

Christine Crawford: (In) the summer months, even though there’s plenty of sunlight, there are a lot of other factors, especially environmental and social factors, that may make it such that people are more likely to experience symptoms of depression.

Research exposure to pollen levels found that for some people in the summer months when exposed to more pollen makes them more agitated and irritable, which can make them cranky, which mood day-to-day outlook on life.

Some people need to rely on darkness to start their circadian rhythm, to know it’s time to go to bed. Those daylight hours that the summer months provide can negatively impact some people’s sleep/wake cycle. When sleep is off, regulating mood throughout the day is harder.

Q: What are some of the social and environmental factors that can contribute to summer seasonal depression?

Crawford: Summer months, for some people, can mean a significant change in day-to-day structure and routine. Perhaps they’re not getting the regular sleep they used to contact or are no longer engaging in certain activities to keep them physically active to ensure that they’re socially connected.

We’re socialized to believe that summer equals happiness. And when you see everyone wearing their summer outfits, going off on vacations, and showing off their toned and fit bodies, for some people, that can impact their overall self-esteem and contribute to psychological stress.

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Q: Are some people more vulnerable to summer seasonal depression?

Crawford: If you already have challenges around sleep, being able to fall asleep, and staying asleep on a regular schedule, it’s really important to talk to your primary care provider about what options are available to ensure that you get a good night’s sleep. If you’re not well-rested, that can increase your likelihood of developing symptoms of depression.

People with a family history of depression are also more at risk, and people who may be experiencing significant stressors that impact their ability to maintain structure, routine, good sleep, good exercise, and social support. All of those things matter for an overall good mood.

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Q: Are there gender differences in susceptibility?

Crawford: Overall, seasonal affective disorder tends to impact women four times more often than men. When thinking about some of these changes in routines during the summer months, the big one is school and the shift in caretaker responsibilities, which can be quite burdensome to particular family members.

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Many parents don’t have the time and the flexibility in their schedule to do self-care because they prioritize their children’s health and well-being. It can create a tremendous amount of stress when you’re going from a situation in which there’s lots of support to be the one to come up with all of the activities for the kids and how to keep them busy. At the same time, you’re exhausted, and you’re running on low energy.

Sometimes, in the summer, especially, wh in the summer months, trying to make the summertime meaningful and memorable, memorable, ande for our children.

Q: If you are experiencing symptoms of seasonal summer depression, how can you manage them?

Crawford: I encourage people to set limits and to know how to set firm boundaries with people regarding what it is you’re willing to do in the summer. We’re often accustomed to saying yes to everything, not wanting to disappoint other people or turn down certain invites, but it’s OK to skip over that brunch or that trip to the beach if you need to sleep in and take care of it yourself.

Get good sleep. …There’s a particular form of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia that could be a really helpful tool that people can use on their own.

If you’re struggling, tell people you trust. Sometimes part of self-care is knowing how to allow others to care for you.

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