We might be in the throes of one of the hottest, sunniest summers in history, but new research suggests that millions of Brits are unknowingly suffering with anxiety and depression. While we should be reaping the rewards of surplus serotonin (happy hormone) levels, according to a survey carried out by treatment clinic Smart TMS, 33% of us feel less confident than we used to and over 20% of us are sleeping more than we need to.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) might be something you usually associate with the cold, dark months of winter, but summer SAD is more common than you think.
What is Summer SAD?
“Shortly after we identified Winter-SAD, my colleagues and I identified a summer version of the condition, in which people become depressed as the days get longer and hotter, and feel better in the winter,” explains clinical professor of psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and SAD expert, Dr. Norman Rosenthal on his blog. “We still don’t know why the summer triggers depressions regularly in some people – perhaps it’s the intense heat or maybe too much light.”
There is very little research on SAD as a whole, but there is virtually none on summer sadness. One theory is that our Circadian rhythm (our internal sleep-wake clock) is disrupted by the seasonal change and longer daylight hours, throwing out our sleep cycle. Without sufficient sleep our mood and energy levels can take a sharp dip.
The whimsical, free-spirit vibes of long, lazy summer days spent free from times and schedules have a less romantic feel if you’re battling with SAD. Some experts have flagged up the lack of routine and disruption of holidays as a potential cause of summer sadness. And in the era of social media, the pressure of FOMO (fear of missing out) has also been mentioned in conjunction with this seasonal disorder. Around a quarter of Brits find themselves cancelling plans with friends and family to avoid interaction, but a quick scroll through Instagram or Facebook offer a reminder of what they’ve missed.
What are the symptoms of summer SAD?
While other mental health conditions can affect you all year round, SAD is ruled by the season and it usually takes a minimum of two years to pinpoint it. Similarly to winter SAD, the summer version is tricky to diagnose. According to the National Institute of Mental Health poor appetite, agitation, restlessness, anxiety and insomnia are among the most common symptoms.
Tiredness might be the biggest tell-tale sign of winter SAD, agitation is what highlights the summer version. While the condition is still relatively rare, if you feel too jittery to eat, sleep or socialise and it has persisted for at least two summers, it could be a sign of summer sadness and it is worth speaking to your doctor. When it comes to reducing the symptoms, experts recommend speaking to your doctor, keeping cool and staying out of the sunshine where possible.
If you don’t feel manic, but have felt your mood dip it’s worth looking at your sleep routine. Invest in blackout blinds to block out light and a good fan to keep the temperature in your bedroom down. It’s important to also set out a regular routine and stick to a bedtime where possible. If you need a little extra help with this, Shabir recommends trying Cherry Night by Viridian for at least two weeks. The powdered cherry extract helps to top up your body’s melatonin levels. Pukka Night Time tea is also worth trying. Infused with chamomile, valerian and oatstraw, it helps your body to relax and unwind in the hour or so before you go to bed.
For more information or support on depression and SAD, visit Mind.org.uk.