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David Baxter

Mar 26, 2004
SAD in the Summer?
by Deborah Gray
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Summertime, and the living is easy." Amen to that. I love summer. Credit it to spending much of my childhood in Florida, but I actually like being hot and sweaty. My absolute favorite place to be is on a beach with sun on my face and my toes digging into hot sand. I crave and need sunshine like a growing plant. And I think it's safe to say that most of the population is the same way. Just think of how many people will lie outside on the grass on the first warm day in spring.

Judith Wurtman wrote about having the winter blues in the summer, due to the weather in her part of the country switching between lack of sun and weather that's too hot to go out and enjoy the sun. But what if your down mood in the summer is more serious than a case of the blues?

I, along with a fair number of other people, suffer from mild Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the winter, which is thought to be caused by a lack of sunlight. In the northern hemisphere's winter, the days are shorter and tend to be darker. Because of chilly temperatures, people spend less time outside and get less direct exposure to sunlight. Ergo, less sunlight. Symptoms of winter seasonal affective disorder tend to consist of not only the usual symptoms of depression, but also an increase in fatigue, appetite and sleep and a craving for carbohydrates.

However, there is a small subset of the people suffering from SAD whose worst time of year is the summer. In many ways, summer Seasonal Affective Disorder is the flip side of winter SAD. It begins in late spring or early summer, and abates in late fall or early winter. The symptoms are essentially the complete opposite of winter SAD. People with summer SAD often have anxiety and irritability, insomnia and decreased appetite.

Unfortunately, the cause of summer SAD is even more of a mystery than that of winter SAD. However, it's believed that it may go beyond exposure to the rays of the sun to include a rise in body temperature. This theory is supported by anecdotal evidence of sufferers obtaining temporary relief by staying out of the sun and keeping cool using air conditioning or cold packs.

So what do you do if you recognize that you or someone you know has summer SAD? Unfortunately, that's It's possible that the biggest obstacle you'll face in dealing with your summer SAD is getting it formally diagnosed. Most knowledgeable general practitioners are familiar with winter SAD, but summer SAD is unlikely to be recognized without your educating them. Your best bet is probably an experienced psychiatrist or psycho-pharmacologist for successful treatment.

The good news is that keeping cool and out of the sun might alleviate your symptoms, and that you can do on your own. Keep a log of sun exposure and temperature. Try lowering your body temperature with cold packs to see if it makes a difference. Good record keeping might sway the opinion of even a skeptical mental health professional.

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