Many people are familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which for some is the onset of the “winter blues”. There are people who get SAD in “reverse”.
Reverse seasonal affective disorder affects less than 1/10th of those suffering with SAD, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Also, like winter-onset SAD, reverse seasonal affective disorder returns every year at about the same time.
The lack of sunlight is linked to winter SAD. It is thought that summer SAD is caused by too much sunlight. This may lead to changes in melatonin production in the brain. An additional theory is a person’s circadian rhythms are altered because one might stay up later in the summer. Summer SAD seems to be more frequent in areas prone to warmer summers such as in southern states while the winter SAD is more common in areas with colder winters as in the northern states.
Source: Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The Dangers of SAD for Addicts in Recovery
Seasonal affective disorder can be dangerous for people in recovery. This is particularly true when the individual has no idea what is causing the discomfort. If people feel that the joy has gone in their recovery, then they may begin to miss their addiction. The symptoms of SAD will also get in the way of the individual’s ability to build a new life away from the addiction. Once the problem is identified, it is almost always possible to bring it under control.
Symptoms of Summer SAD
Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Agitation or anxiety
Tips to Help Cope with Summer SAD
- Plan ahead.You will feel more in control if you have plans in place, such as vacation arrangements and when to take time off from work.
- Sleep. It’s important to maintain good sleep habits in the summer. Even though vacations and summer barbecues encourage you to stay up later, make sure to keep your sleep schedule the same. Not getting enough sleep is a common trigger for depression. So make a concerted effort to get to bed on time: and wake up at the same time every morning. Try not to sleep much less than 7 hours and no more than 9 hours a night.
- Keep up with your exercise. Many studies have found that regular physical activity can help keep depression at bay. Start earlier in the morning or later in the evening, when it’s not so hot. Consider fitness equipment for the cool basement or joining a gym for a couple of months over the summer.
- Don’t overdo dieting and fitness. Don’t kick off the summer with a frenzy of dieting and exercise to keep up body image. Instead, exercise sensibly and eat moderately. If you try a too restrictive diet, you may not be able to keep it up. And that “failure” will just leave you more demoralized and worsen your summer depression.
- Protect yourself. Don’t let obligations drag you down. Maybe you always host the annual family gathering on Memorial Day or the July 4 picnic. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, give it a pass this year. Don’t risk pushing yourself into a summer depression just to live up to tradition.
- Think about the causes for your worry. If you struggle with summer depression yearly, ask yourself if there may be reason. Do you associate summer with a difficult time in the past? Have you had depression during the summer previously? If you do have some unhappy connection with the summer, thinking it out could help you break the cycle.Relapse
- Plan your vacation carefully. Don’t get lodged into a vacation that will not feel like a vacation. Is this what you really want? Or is it an obligation you’re fulfilling? Will it make you happy? Will it stretch your finances? Consider alternatives – in place of taking two weeks off at once, perhaps plan to take several long weekends spread out through the summer.
One thing particularly difficult about summer depression is that you feel out of step – everyone else seems happy in the warmer months. Don’t be too hard on yourself. So stop worrying about how you feel relative to other people. Instead, concentrate on what’s triggering your summer depression and how you can overcome it.