Tend to experience depression at the same time every year? And for some reason it tends to be right around May or June, when the sun starts to shine? So that just as everyone else is full of energy, you are suddenly unable to function?

You might have seasonal affective disorder in reverse, or ‘Summertime SAD’.

What is reverse seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) means that for some reason not fully understood by scientists, some of our brains crash into depression directly in connection to the change of seasons. For most people this is when autumn arrives and the days are shorter and gloomier.

But for about ten per cent of sufferers here in the UK, SAD is connected to sunlight and long days. Called ‘reverse seasonal affective disorder’, as well as ‘summertime depression’ or the ‘summertime blues’, you will tend to fall into depression like clockwork every year around May or June.

So just as everyone else is ready to plan barbecues and trips to the seaside, you want to crawl under the duvet and stay there.

Symptoms of summertime depression

Symptoms of reverse SAD are similar to any other form of depression and can include:

Of course the clear difference is that you will have experienced your symptoms at the same time each year (when summer begins) for the last several years, if not longer.

Winter SAD vs Summer SAD

Those who get depression as winter sets in are more likely to experience a desire to oversleep, to feel sluggish, and to overeat. They can see positive changes if they use a light therapy lamp daily (the NHS recommends 30 minutes each morning).

A small study showed that those with summertime SAD, on the other hand, are more likely to experience insomnia, agitation, and possible loss of appetite (although note it depends on the individual). It’s elsewhere suggested that they might also experience anxiety alongside their depression.

It would be fair to say that having summertime SAD is worse than winter SAD, given that there is no obvious therapy like a special lamp.

And according to an article in the National Geographic, summertime SAD leaves you more prone to feeling suicidal than the wintertime version.

Why do I get the summertime blues?

It would be easy to assume that because wintertime seasonal affective disorder is due to a lack of sunlight, summertime SAD is because of too much sunlight. But it’s not that simple.

Other factors are thought to also be at play, such as heat, humidity, and even allergies to pollen. A small study of African American students, for example, found that students with a pollen allergy were more likely to experience summertime SAD.

In summary, no, sitting in a dark room for 30 minutes a day is not the answer (although some sufferers report sitting in cold, dark rooms actually does help them feel temporarily better).

But surely scientists know why some people get SAD?

Again, there is no exact science as to why some of us get seasonal affective disorder and others don’t.

Like all forms of depression, it’s thought to be a mix of genetics and environments, such as if we experienced childhood trauma or not.

Although research does point to interesting links with SAD to our melatonin production and our circadian cycles, both of which are affected by light and help regulate our sleep.

A French study on circadian rhythms, sleep, and suicide pointed out that suicide rates peak in spring and in autumn, exactly coinciding with the two times of year people fall prey to seasonal affective disorder.

So what can I do if I suffer the summertime blues?

For a diagnosis of reverse seasonal affective disorder you would have had to have suffered the same fairly debilitating depression at the beginning of warmer weather for the last few years. And from there treatment tends to be talk therapy, a strong self-care routine, and in some cases medication.

If you are experiencing summertime sadness for the first time, it could also be another form of depression. Summertime can pose all sorts of challenges, such as social pressure and body image issues. If you have been feeling low for six weeks or more and it's not getting any better or even getting worse? Then do talk to your GP. or book a session with a talk therapist privately.

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