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Summer Depression: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Summer Depression? Summer is supposed to be a time of fun and relaxation, but for some people, it can trigger a form of depression known as summer depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). While SAD is commonly associated with the winter months, about 10% of people with the condition experience symptoms during the summer, according to Dr. Ian A. Cook, the director of the Depression Research Program at UCLA. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for summer depression.

What is Summer Depression?

Summer depression, also known as summer SAD, is a type of depression that occurs during the summer months. While the exact cause of summer depression is unknown, experts believe that factors such as increased heat and humidity, disrupted schedules, body image issues, and financial worries can all contribute to the condition.

Summertime SAD

For some people, summer depression has a biological cause, similar to SAD in the winter. SAD affects about 4% to 6% of the U.S. population, causing depression as the days get shorter and colder. However, about 10% of people with SAD experience the opposite effect, with the onset of summer triggering their depression symptoms. Some studies have shown that in countries near the equator, such as India, summer SAD is more common than winter SAD.

Disrupted Schedules in Summer

One of the main causes of summer depression is the disruption of our regular schedules. During the summer months, routines tend to go out the window. For parents with school-aged children, the prospect of keeping them occupied all day, every day can be stressful. For those with college-aged children, they may suddenly find them back in the house with all their boxes of stuff after a nine-month absence. Vacations can also disrupt our work, sleep, and eating habits. All of these changes can be a significant contributing factor to summer depression.

Body Image Issues

As temperatures climb, many people become more self-conscious about their bodies. Feeling embarrassed in shorts or a bathing suit can make life awkward and uncomfortable. Since many summertime gatherings revolve around beaches and pools, some people may start avoiding social situations out of embarrassment.

Financial Worries

Summers can be expensive, with vacations and summer camps for children taking up a significant portion of our budgets. For working parents, the cost of babysitters or summer camps can add up quickly. Additionally, the economic crisis has added an additional layer of financial strain for many people, with worries about job stability and the potential loss of income.

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The Heat

While many people enjoy the sweltering heat, for others, it can become oppressive. Spending every weekend hiding out in an air-conditioned bedroom or skipping before-dinner walks due to the humidity can become a regular occurrence. Relying on unhealthy takeout because it’s too hot to cook can also contribute to summer depression.

Symptoms of Summer Depression

The symptoms of summer depression are similar to those of other forms of depression, but there are some unique characteristics. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Suicidal thoughts

Treatment Options for Summer Depression

If you’re experiencing symptoms of summer depression, it’s important to seek help. Talk to a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker. These professionals can help you evaluate whether medication for depression might be appropriate. Never take the signs of depression lightly. Don’t wait them out, assuming they’ll resolve. Sometimes, what started as summer depression can turn into a longer-lasting bout of major depression.

Plan Ahead

One advantage of summer depression is that it’s predictable. If you’re feeling okay in the spring, think about the specific aspects of your life that become difficult during the summer. What will help prevent summer depression? What’s the best way to take time off from work? Would signing up the kids for summer programs or camp help relieve your stress? You’ll feel a lot more in control heading into the summer if you have plans in place.

Sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for good mental health. While summer vacations and barbecues can encourage you to stay up later than usual, not getting enough sleep is a common trigger for depression. Make a concerted effort to get to bed on time.

Exercise

Regular physical activity can help keep depression at bay. Find alternative ways to stay active and head off summer depression. Start earlier in the morning or later in the evening when it’s not so hot. Consider fitness equipment for the cool basement. Joining a gym for a couple of months just to get you through the summer can be a good option.

Don’t Overdo Dieting and Fitness

Trying to fit into last year’s bathing suit can lead to unhealthy dieting and exercise habits that can worsen summer depression. Instead, exercise sensibly and eat moderately. If you try an insanely restrictive diet, you probably won’t be able to keep it up, which can leave you more demoralized.

Protect Yourself

Don’t let obligations drag you down. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, give family gatherings a pass this year. Ask another relative to host. Don’t risk pushing yourself into a summer depression just to live up to tradition.

Think About Why

If you struggle with summer depression year after year, ask yourself if there’s a reason. Do you associate summer with a difficult time in the past, such as the death of a loved one or the break-up of a relationship? Have you had previous bouts of depression during the summer? Sorting out these issues can help you break the cycle.

Medication

If you’re on medication for depression, talk to your doctor about adjusting your dosage. Increasing your dose in the late spring and tapering it back down in the fall can help head off summer depression problems.

Plan Your Vacation Carefully

Before booking your summer vacation, ask yourself if it’s what you really want. Will it make you happy, or will it cause additional stress? Consider alternatives, such as taking several long weekends spread out through the summer or taking time off but staying at home for a “staycation.”

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

One of the hardest things about summer depression is feeling out of step with everyone else. Try not to worry about how you feel relative to other people. Instead, concentrate on what’s triggering your summer depression and how you can overcome it.

In conclusion, summer depression is a type of depression that can occur during the summer months. While the exact cause of summer depression is unknown, factors such as increased heat and humidity, disrupted schedules, body image issues, and financial worries can all contribute to the condition. If you’re experiencing symptoms of summer depression, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. With proper treatment, summer depression can be managed, and you can enjoy the season to the fullest.

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