Every year during the cold winter months, many of us anticipate the summer's sunshine and hot weather. However, a small minority with summer seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are happier when it's over. Similar to winter SAD, those with summer depression struggle with depressive symptoms that can stem from allergies to body image issues.

In Fix.com's infographic, "Summer Depression: Experiencing SAD in Sunny Months," Caileigh Flannigan explains SAD is often seen as a winter disorder, but SAD affects a person's mood in a seasonal pattern, whether it's winter or summer. Unlike winter SAD, summer-onset depression is extremely rare and accounts for just 10 percent of all SAD cases. This means there's limited research on summer SAD and how to treat it.

Read More: Summer Depression And The Problem Of Too Much Light

It's not clear what causes summertime depression — Is it heat, too much sunlight, or both?

Norman Rosenthal, a pioneer in both winter and summer SAD research, suggests the summer blues may be due to bright light. According to anecdotal evidence from one of his clients, the light in the summer “cuts through her like a knife.”

Brain scans have shown as the seasons change, the brain physiologically adapts from winter mode to warmer spring weather.

But, in people with winter or summer SAD, they have trouble transitioning from one season to the next. Those with summer depression can be affected by the season's temperature — the heat can become unbearable for some, prompting them to stay in an air conditioned room and avoid events outside. Other probable causes for summer SAD include allergies and body image issues.

Summer can lead to the onset of allergies; some researchers believe inflammation in the respiratory airways can trigger depression in some people. Those with severe and chronic allergies may face a greater risk of summer SAD. A 2007 study found self-reported mood-worsening occurred with high pollen count, which was associated with a greater seasonality of mood, predicting summer depression.

In addition, body image issues can also influence our perception of summer. For example, a lot of people who feel self-conscious and ashamed about their body may avoid places like the beach or pool. Since summertime events are centered around these places, some will avoid these social situations out of embarrassment.

The exact causes of summer depression are still being debated, but researchers do know many of the symptoms of major depression are also seen in SAD. Symptoms include: feeling sad throughout the day; having thoughts of death or suicide; feeling hopeless or worthless; and low interest in activities you once enjoyed. Now, symptoms directly related to summer SAD influence a person's physical and mental health, including loss of appetite; insomnia; weight loss; anxiety; manic feelings, including elated mood and grandiose feelings; and agitation.

Managing these symptoms varies by patient. Currently, there is no equivalent of light therapy — used to treat winter SAD — for summer SAD. However, Dr. Alfred Lewy, a a professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, suggests a possible way to treat this depression is to look at the body's natural clock, its circadian rhythms, which may be misaligned in the summer.

Read More: How To Recognize Signs Of SAD And How To Fight It

Lewy believes the longer daylight leads some people to cue at dusk rather than dawn. This means cueing at dusk shortens the body clock and delays a person's sleep-wake cycle. This could be what's triggering summer depression.

In a 2006 study, Lewy and his colleagues found treating winter SAD patients with melatonin in the morning or after/evening allowed them to reset their circadian clocks to alleviate symptoms. Similarly, Lewy treated a person with summer SAD with a combination of early morning sunlight (about 30 to 60 minutes daily), which shifted the body clock forward with low-dose melatonin, the sleep hormone. Antidepressants could help manage severe symptoms.

Effectively treating summer SAD symptoms is contingent on identifying the cause of the depression. Important questions to ask are: Why do you feel the way you do? Is the heat making you anxious? Are family vacations stressing you out? Identifying the underlying cause will help you better manage your symptoms and ease your depression.

Source: Fix.com Blog

See Also:

6 Different Types Of Depression, From Bipolar Disorder To Seasonal Affective Disorder

Happiness Is Actually Linked To Sunshine, Study Finds