SAD In The Summertime
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) normally affects people during the darker, colder months. Reverse SAD, however, occurs in the summertime and can be especially difficult for those in recovery.
There’s something about summertime that often drives some extra excitement. Just as an example, take a look at some of the songs written, played and remembered about summer:
- “Summertime and the living is easy…” – Sublime, Doin’ Time
- “Summer, summer, summer time…” – Will Smith & DJ Jazzy Jeff, Summertime
- “Summer loving, having a blast…” – John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John, Summer Nights (Grease)
- “Was the summer of ‘69…” – Bryan Adams, Summer of ‘69
- “School’s out for the summer…” – Alice Cooper, School’s Out for the Summer
- “Summertime girls are the kind I like…” – LFO, Summer Girls
In the summer, many people tend to take vacations, stay up a little later, invite friends over for barbecues, spend time in the parks or at the beach or pool. But for some, the summer months bring about anxiety, depression and heavy substance use.
While you may be familiar with the medical term Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition that can affect our mood and wellbeing in the winter – there are people who experience Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, or Reverse SAD.
Reverse SAD – Summertime Depression
SAD is a disorder that often presents symptoms ranging from depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness as well as extreme mood changes – all of which around the same time each year. While SAD in the winter is linked to a lack of natural sunlight, it is thought that summer SAD is caused by the reverse: Too much sunlight and melatonin production. Research also suggests that hotter temperatures may play a part in Reverse SAD.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), as many as one in ten people who suffer from SAD experience the depressive disorder in “reverse” – in the summer months. Those struggling with Reverse SAD deal with struggles:
- Taking care of him or herself
For example, not eating or overeating, lacking sleep or exercise patterns, or not taking care of health or hygiene
- Performing at work
For example, missing work, coming in late, missing deadlines or not keeping up with workflow and responsibilities
- Managing family and household responsibilities
For example, struggles with paying bills on time, neglecting household cleaning or difficulties budgeting
- Maintaining a positive spirit or positive relationships
For example, joylessness, declining to participate in recreational activities, irritability, panic attacks, etc.
Reverse SAD And Addiction
As with many mood and mental health disorders, pinpointing the source of pain can be difficult. We’ve used the example of having an extreme toothache. Left untreated for a short time, a toothache can spread to a pain in the remainder of the mouth and jaw, a severe headache, sight difficulties and nausea. Once these additional symptoms unravel, it becomes difficult to find the truth source of the problem because all the pain has blended into one. At this point, all we know is that we’re in pain and we are suffering greatly.
Depressive disorders, including Reverse SAD can have the same kind of effects: People have no idea what’s causing their struggles, depression or anxiety. They don’t know how to treat it, so they look for anything to make them feel better – even if it’s temporary. Unfortunately, this type of “treatment” for the symptoms often comes in the form of a pill or a drink.
Each time the effects of the drug or the pill wear off, they feel another low – so they use again. Eventually, that substance withdrawal depression can trigger a dependence on chemicals.
Reverse SAD can be especially concerning for those in recovery from addiction because it can take away the joy of their journey and sobriety. With that joy removed, they may begin to miss and romanticize the alcohol or drug of choice. Looking to fill that void that SAD can create, they’ll return to using.
Guilt About Summer SAD
One of the most notable differences between SAD (in the winter) and Reverse SAD (in the summer) is the reactions from those who don’t understand it: Because the symptoms of Reverse SAD prevent those suffering from it from seeing summer as a fun time to be out and enjoying sunshine and warm temperatures, they see summer as just another thing that depression steals.
Because summer depression can be a daily battle, those with Reverse SAD can feel guilty about not getting out and enjoying the sunshine: They experience disappointment in themselves, feeling worse about missing out. They feel guilty about enjoying rainy days because the pressures are off – if only slightly. They feel guilty that they are supposed to love sunny days and get out and “make the most of them” – but in reality, they’d rather be inside working or resting.
Sunny summer days can put pressure on those with Reverse SAD to be happy – just because the sun is out. Those with Reverse SAD feel the constant pressure to be like anyone else who can laugh and enjoy the sunshine and warm weather.
Dealing With Reverse SAD in Recovery:
If you find yourself dealing with symptoms of summer SAD, know that while it is a serious health condition, it can be treated. If summertime makes you manic, don’t ignore it:
- Speak to your doctor right away: The sooner help is sought, the better.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, getting enough sleep at night.
- Regular exercise is beneficial for all types of depressive disorders, including Reverse SAD. Because depression can lead to or be a symptom of a sedentary daily life, it’s important to promote a healthy lifestyle in both diet and exercise. If you are in addiction recovery, continue to embrace the medical benefits of a sober body.
- Some professionals recommend the practice of meditation to manage the symptoms of Reverse SAD. Mindfulness, yoga and Tai Chi are all great practices to do so.
- Pay attention to worsening signs of depression and report them immediately.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs to ease symptoms of Reverse SAD. Studies indicate that substances only worse the symptoms of depressive disorders as the body undergoes withdrawals.
Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder and addiction can be co-occurring disorders. If you or a loved one are in recovery from addiction and begin to relapse due to Reverse SAD, call our hotline immediately at 888.614.2251 – and our treatment specialists will assist you in getting you the help you need right away – before the cycle begins.