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Understanding Summer Depression

Symptoms, Causes &Treatment of Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder

Mar 17, 2008
Sufferers Feel Attacked by the Sun, Bram Janssens
This article offers an overview of reverse seasonal affective disorder, the rare summer form of SAD that can signifcantly impact on the lives of sufferers.

Summer depression is a rare variant of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) with a spring onset, affecting sufferers through the lighter, hotter months. It manifests with some symptoms that are the reverse of those suffered in the winter form. It is sometimes referred to as “reverse seasonal affective disorder” or “summer SAD”.
The most common type of SAD is often described as “winter depression”, and includes symptoms such as low mood, oversleeping and increased appetite. These symptoms occur in the autumn and winter months.

Symptoms of Summer Depression

The DSM-IV notes SADs as “specifiers”, seasonal patterns that can occur within major depressive or bipolar disorders. Sufferers of summer SAD may experience some or all of the following symptoms during the spring and summer months:
  • Depression, feelings of hopelessness
  • Loss of interest and/or enjoyment in activities
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of irritability
  • Feelings of agitation
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Increased sex drive
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
These symptoms subside in the fall, reappearing the following spring.

Causes of Summer Depression

Like other types of depression, determining a cause is not straightforward, and clearly more research is needed to better understand this disorder. Winter depression is strongly linked to a lack of sunlight, so it is logical to assume that summer depression may be linked to too much sunlight. Although this may be an important part of the picture, the little research that has been carried out suggests that temperature increases play a much more significant role.

Prevalence of Summer Depression
Summer SAD is thought to affect less than 1% of the US population. These sufferers appear to live in hotter regions and, as is the case with other depressive disorders, they are more likely to be female. It is hard to determine the true number of sufferers and significance of gender variation, as people may feel uncomfortable coming forward. Some may manage their symptoms themselves, without seeking advice.

Treatment for Summer Depression

The symptoms of summer depression may have a significantly negative impact on sufferers’ lives, making it difficult for them to function. As with the causes, there is very little evidence on how best to treat to treat summer SAD, though a few possible treatments have been highlighted by researchers.
Sufferers often attribute their symptoms to the summer heat, reporting relief from symptoms by staying indoors and keeping cool. Some find relief in air-conditioned environments and/or taking regular cold showers.
So far, summer SAD has been shown to respond to antidepressant medication, which helps to elevate mood by altering levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. These chemicals are strongly linked to mood and have shown to be effective in treating other types of depression, including winter SAD. Since it may take several weeks for antidepressants to kick in, a doctor may suggest beginning a course of medication in the late winter, before the onset of symptoms.
In non-seasonal depression and winter SAD, sticking to a healthy diet, doing regular exercise and accessing talking treatments have all been shown to be helpful, though it is unclear if these will help summer SAD sufferers.
For some self-help strategies, including information on sleep and diet, read Self-help for Summer Depression. Anyone suffering symptoms of summer SAD should seek advice from a qualified health professional.


Seasonal Affective Disorder: American Family Physician, accessed 17th March 2008, no author specified
Seasonal affective disorder with summer depression and winter hypomania: American Journal of Psychiatry, accessed 17th March 2008, authors - Wehr, TA; Sack, DA; Rosenthal, NE

The copyright of the article Understanding Summer Depression in Depression is owned by Barbara Melville. Permission to republish Understanding Summer Depression in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

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