Many people have heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and how some people – an estimated 5% of the population – experience feelings of depression during the winter months. This is thought to be related to the lack of light as the days get shorter. Accordingly, in the northern hemisphere, the regions further north tend to have a greater prevalence of SAD during the winter. Many sufferers use light-therapy to supplement the lack of light.
A similar but less familiar experience sometimes occurs during the summer months for approximately 1% of the population. Still classified as a seasonal affective disorder or ‘summer depression’ it appears to be correlated to the high temperatures of summer. As a result, it appears most frequently in the hottest regions of the country.
An interesting finding is that the symptoms of summer depression are quite different from winter depression. Specifically, during a winter depression the symptoms are often oversleeping and overeating – accompanied especially by a craving for carbohydrates. However, during a summer depression the opposite symptoms often occur – for example, a lack of sleep (insomnia) and a loss of appetite.
While acknowledging that it’s harder to sleep and many people don’t feel like eating when it’s really hot outside, these symptoms during the summer can end up impacting important areas of a person’s life – e.g., being irritable and impatient with friends and family, etc.
Sometimes the fact that we can normalize and predict that we might be more susceptible to feeling this way during the summer can lead to us being proactive in taking steps to prepare for this – for example, sending the kids away to summer camp in order to reduce the stress. Beat those summertime blues and have a cool summer.
Dr. Martin Phillips-Hing (www.psychologist1.com) is a registered psychologist (#1361) and the clinical supervisor at Peace Arch Community Services (www.pacsbc.com) in White Rock.