Is summer getting you down?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Senior Life Solutions has advice for hot months

At this point, almost everyone has heard about Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short.

This term was first coined by Georgetown University psychiatrist and Professor Norman Rosenthal to explain the depression symptoms some individuals experience as the nights grow longer and the weather becomes colder.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, roughly less than 1/10th of all SAD cases are reverse SAD. Wait a minute, whatís that you ask? Well you arenít alone in being unfamiliar with Reverse SAD. Just like the name suggests, this condition describes the depressive symptoms some individuals experience when the days become longer and the weather is hot and humid, with each day much like the one before it.

It is thought that summer SAD is due to possibly too much sunlight, which also leads to modulations in melatonin production. Another theory is that people might stay up later in the summer, throwing their sensitive circadian rhythms for a loop. Interestingly, summer SAD and winter SAD seems to be prevalent in areas that are particularly prone to warmer summers. In other words, people in the southern U.S. tend to experience summer SAD more so than those in the north (and vice versa). Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that serves to protect the brain. However, more importantly, melatoninís immediate precursor is the neurotransmitter serotonin, a major player in regulating mood. By reducing melatonin production, SAD increases the risk for depression and other mood disorders.

Symptoms of Reverse SAD include trouble with concentration, fatigue, and loss of appetite, weight loss, trouble sleeping, and possible mania. Of course everyone experiences some of these symptoms at different times. If you feel like you have these symptoms return at the same time each year and they interfere with your ability to function normally, it would be a good idea to check with your doctor as only a licensed health care provider can make a diagnosis and offer the proper course of treatment.

Unfortunately, there are few studies devoted to understanding reverse SAD, likely because it is less well-known than its counterpart. In addition, individuals who might be affected by reverse SAD may be misdiagnosed with major depression, anxiety, or dysthymia. Because it is fairly esoteric compared to winter SAD, many people who become depressed in the summer may not realize they have SAD. They may simply think of their bouts of depression as new events rather than parts of a pattern. Researchers think it may also have a genetic component; more than two-thirds of patients with SAD have a relative with a major mood disorder.

Even though Reverse SAD is less well known and documented, if you feel like you are one of those people with the summer blues, take comfort that youíre not alone. There are others out there like you just waiting for that first crisp, fall day. And in the meantime do what you can to help yourself feel better. Things that can help with symptoms of both types of SAD include eating a balanced diet, practicing good sleep hygiene by keeping bed times consistent, exercising 3-5 times a week, and participating in a leisure activity of your choice weekly. As with any condition if it is keeping you from performing the tasks of daily living, please contact your health care provider.

Senior Life Solutions is an intensive outpatient group therapy program designed to meet the unique needs of older adults over the age of 65 struggling with depression and anxiety often related to aging. Family members, physicians, or other health professionals can refer individuals to the program. For further information, please contact Mercy Hospital Cassvilleís Senior Life Solutions at 417-847-6042.