Many of us may sigh with relief when Spring is around the corner, the crocuses and the daffodils are emerging, there is the prospect of longer lighter days and warmer weather. Having hunkered down with our box sets of Game of Thrones or Mad Men (or whatever ticks the box for you!) during the long winter months, we can finally think about getting outside more and generally it feels like the start of a more sociable time of the year. Extra sunlight can increase levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which also can improve the mood.
For some, winter is an especially tough time as a combination of change in body clock, decreased melatonin and serotonin levels triggers a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) ( See my blog specifically on SAD for more information and types of treatments for it) also known as “winter depression.”
SAD has become a relatively well known condition but many people are much less familiar with its cousin Reverse SAD, the “summer depression” equivalent, which makes up around 10% of all SAD sufferers. However, whereas SAD can cause lethargy, excessive sleep, loss of libido, a craving for carbohydrates and possible weight gain, potential symptoms of Reverse SAD are agitation, irritability, increased sex drive, weight loss and insomnia.
So what are the factors involved in the onset of Reverse SAD ? Well, the research out there is so far inconclusive, although points to a possible heightened sensitivity to heat and light though seasonal allergies have also been mooted as a potential reason; in the Journal of Affective Disorders, psychiatrist Alvaro Guzman makes a link to high pollen counts “Aeroallergens produce inflammation in the respiratory airways and inflammation triggers depression in vulnerable individuals.”
Aside from the biological factors, there’s the assumption that we should be full of the joys of spring when the days are getting longer, the sun is out and holidays are around the corner. That can lead to further feelings of isolation, as you might feel like you’re the only one not wanting to get outside and socialise, and the thought of getting into a bikini or trunks horrifies you. Oh and it doesn’t help when the adverts are crammed with airbrushed pictures of body beautiful yoga bunnies or Baywatch hunks, which can be distressing for those with poor body image or body dysmorphia.
UK suicide rates are actually their highest in the Spring, peaking in April and May, so depression in the sunnier months is by no means a rarity, and people need to be talking about it. Professor Chris Thompson at The Priory Group says “Spring is a time for new beginnings and new life, yet the juxtaposition between a literally blooming world and the barren inner life of the clinically depressed is often too much for them to bear.”
Fortunately there are things you can do to alleviate symptoms of Reverse SAD :
- Melatonin – a prescription of this hormone (taken orally) can promote sleep but only get it from your doctor as online it may not be the real thing.
- Reducing exposure to daylight and only getting early morning sun.
- Psychotherapy – With the help of a counsellor or psychotherapist you can get a greater understanding of how Reverse SAD affects you and learn coping strategies to deal with it better.
- Medication – Anti depressants may be helpful if the symptoms are severe, as they are known to lower the body and brain temperature.
- Mindfulness – Relaxation techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises may help to reduce anxiety and lessen the agitation.
- Self care – try to do some gentle exercise, eat a healthy well balanced diet and keep alcohol consumption to a minimum, although understandably this can be challenging for Reverse SAD sufferers to do.
IF YOU THINK YOU OR SOMEONE ELSE YOU KNOW MAY BE SUFFERING FROM REVERSE SAD, YOU DON’T HAVE TO SUFFER ALONE. CALL ME FOR A CHAT AND WE CAN DISCUSS YOUR OPTIONS IN A CONFIDENTIAL AND SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT. I ALSO RECOMMEND THAT YOU CONSULT YOUR GP, AS HE OR SHE CAN RUN TESTS (SUCH AS CHECKING THE THYROID) TO RULE OUT ANY OTHER PHYSICAL REASONS FOR YOUR LOW MOOD AND SHIFT IN APPETITE AND SLEEPING PATTERNS.