What Is Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder? Seasonal Depression During The Spring And Summer Isn’t Uncommon And Could Affect You
Many people are familiar with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, as a form of depression that comes to the surface during the winter. SAD is traditionally liked to seasonal changes like lower light levels (hello, Daylight Savings), cooler temperatures, and lifestyle changes. But there's another kind of seasonal affective disorder that can dramatically change your mood as we move into springtime, too: Reverse SAD is a condition that affects your mood as the temperatures get warmer, and though it's less common than its chillier cousin, it also can drastically change your mood in some pretty unexpected ways.
Just like SAD that's associated with winter, SAD that occurs in spring or summer occurs at roughly the same time each year, coinciding with the seasons, Dr. Marc Romano, director of medical services at Delphi Behavioral Health, tells Bustle. Even though there's (theoretically) more light out in the spring, which is usually a go-to treatment for SAD, roughly 10 percent of people who get SAD experience mood changes during the warmer months, according to WebMD.
Buy beyond the time of year, there's another major difference between SAD and reverse SAD: symptoms. "While Winter SAD presents with increased appetite, hypersomnia, and low energy, Summer SAD is the opposite and consists of decreased appetite, insomnia, and increased energy," Dr Romano tells Bustle. Jitteriness, agitation, and anxiety can also be a part of the symptoms of reverse SAD. It may resemble hypomania, the milder form of mania that accompanies bipolar disorder II — and having too much energy and not enough sleep may sound great for productivity and socializing in the summer months, but aren't actually very good for your overall health.
So what's behind reverse SAD? "Although Winter SAD is well understood," Dr. Romano tells Bustle, "more research needs to be done on Summer SAD. Various studies have attempted to explain Summer SAD and have proposed such causes as high pollen counts, exposure to too much sunlight, high temperatures, and changes in circadian rhythms." Alterations in melatonin production, the hormone that regulates human sleep and is stimulated by exposure to sunlight, have been suggested as a serious candidate for what's behind the mood change. We know that melatonin changes can mess with our energy levels and sleep — it's marketed as a sleep aid for people with jet lag — but more research needs to be done on whether longer days and more sun have a tangible effect on people with reverse SAD.
Another interesting study explored by Scientific American in 2015 reveals something that may contribute to reverse SAD: the season in which you were born. According to tests on mice, those who were born in summer were more likely to respond well to warm temperatures in their adult lives, while those born in winter appeared to be less positive about them. There's no research yet to indicate that this is the case in humans, but it could be an additional factor.
If you believe you're suffering from reverse SAD, there are treatments that have been indicated to provide positive effects. Dr. Romano says that "decreased exposure to sunlight, the use of antidepressant medication, and improving an individuals’ sleep-wake cycle" have all been proposed at treatments, and that "the use of counseling has also been highly recommended to treat depressive disorders and would likely benefit any individual" experiencing SAD or reverse SAD. However, he cautions, "until further research in this area occurs, the effectiveness of each approach has yet to be established."
So, summertime sadness is in fact a real thing. If you're experiencing unexpected high-level anxiety, sleeplessness, exhaustion and a lack of appetite, and it coincides with longer days and warmer temperatures, consider going to your doctor or mental health care provider and having a chat about how to manage your SAD.