Many depression sufferers experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during wintertime when daylight hours decrease. The effect is more pronounced the further you live from the equator.
One common and effective treatment for winter SAD is lightbox therapy, which mimics sunlight exposure during those sun-starved months. I’ve been using a lightbox from November to February for years, and I highly recommend it.
According to a recent article at Smithsonian.com by Brian Handwerk, “People Get Seasonal Depression in the Summer, Too”. This was news to me. Like many wintertime SAD sufferers, I treasure the long days around the summer solstice. Whether you love or dread midsummer, this article is a fascinating read.
Summertime SAD has both similiarities and differences with the wintertime version.
“Both summer SAD and winter SAD people can experience the full range of symptoms of major depressive disorder—depressed mood, hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness and nihilism,” says Ian Cook, a professor of psychiatry and bioengineering and director of the UCLA Depression Research & Clinic Program.
Other symptoms are opposites, like the seasons themselves. Winter sufferers often feel sluggish, sleep more than usual and tend to overeat and gain weight. By contrast, summertime depression often brings insomnia, loss of appetite, weight loss and feelings of agitation or anxiety.
Unfortunately for those who experience summertime SAD, there is no common corrective comparable to lightbox therapy. Continue doing what works for you is the best advice, especially exercise and good sleep hygiene.
The second half of the Smithsonian article looks at recent research on the possibility that birth season impacts one’s susceptibility to depression. In one statistical analysis of nearly 2 million hospital records, “several depression-related diagnoses were modulated by birth season, according to the study, with winter babies being more prone to suffer their effects.” This hypothesis is a long way from proven, of course.