Now that the sun is shining again and flowers are in full bloom, we should all feel like a weight has been lifted from our winter-beleaguered shoulders and dance joyfully in the newly green grass, right?
Although lots of us welcome the spring and summer seasons, not all of us do. If you are someone who not only counts the days until the air starts to have a chill again and the leaves begin to turn yellow and orange on the trees, but also struggle with feelings of depression until the colder and gloomier weather arrives, you may have a condition known as Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder (Reverse SAD).
Although research on the incidence of spring/summer depression is somewhat limited, some studies have found that up to 10% of individuals with SAD may experience symptoms during the spring or summer months instead of the winter.
Let's explore a little about what spring depression is, its causes, symptoms and how best to manage it.
What is Reverse SAD?
Reverse SAD is a type of mood disorder that affects individuals during the spring and summer seasons. It is a subtype of SAD which affects most people during the fall or winter months. This condition is characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and low energy. Those affected by SAD, regardless of the season they are affected, may notice changes in their appetite, sleep patterns and behavior.
What causes Reverse SAD?
While the exact cause of Reverse SAD is unknown, research suggests that it may be due to changes in circadian rhythms, or the body's internal clock, as well as shifting hormones and neurotransmitters. The changing of the seasons, not to mention Daylight Savings Time, disrupts the body's natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to feelings of fatigue and lethargy. The changing of the seasons can also cause shifts in hormones such a melatonin, which can affect mood and energy levels.
Weather changes can also affect people's mood because even though spring brings warmer temperatures and more sunlight, the weather patterns are often unpredictable. One day could offer hours of sunshine and warmth however, that could be followed by three straight days of cold rain.
Another complication brought by spring is the addition of seasonal allergies. The fresh air and plants blooming, are great if you are not affected by allergies but for those who are, those open windows invite fatigue, irritability, and mood changes instead of just natural light.
Do I have Reverse SAD?
The common symptoms of Reverse SAD can vary from person to person, but some common signs include:
Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
Changes in appetite, including both undereating or overeating
Low energy, you could feel exhausted even after getting enough sleep
Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
Changes in behavior like withdrawal from social activities or a decreased interest in hobbies and other activities
Irritability and being more short-tempered than normal
Physical symptoms such as headaches, body aches and digestive problems
Managing Reverse SAD
Here are some tips to manage the symptoms of Reverse SAD:
Establish a consistent sleep schedule. Make sure your body is getting enough sleep every night.
Practice relaxation techniques such a meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to reduce stress and improve your mood.
Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine because exercise can help boost your mood and energy levels naturally. Bonus points if you do this (or any) activity outside as natural sunlight can help regulate circadian rhythms and boost your mood.
Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to support your overall health and well-being.
Limit alcohol and caffeine intake due to the disruption of sleep schedule and the potential to worsen depression symptoms. Some choose to avoid these all together for this reason.
Choose self-care activities that bring you joy and help you relax such as reading a book, taking a bath, or practicing a hobby.
Stay connected to friends and loved ones to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can worsen symptoms of depression
Talk to a mental health professional if you are experiencing symptoms of Reverse SAD. They can provide you with individual support and guidance as you work through your symptoms and develop coping strategies to get through this time.
It's important to note that if you're experiencing severe symptoms of depression, such as thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it's crucial to seek immediate medical attention. You can call the national mental health crisis line, 988, for immediate crisis response, 24/7.
With the right treatment and support, it is possible to overcome Reverse SAD and enjoy the beauty and warmth of the season!
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
Rosenthal, N. E., Sack, D. A., Gillin, J. C., Lewy, A. J., Goodwin, F. K., Davenport, Y., Mueller, P. S., Newsome, D. A., & Wehr, T. A. (1984). Seasonal affective disorder: A description of the syndrome and preliminary findings with light therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 41(1), 72–80.
Magnusson, A., & Boivin, D. (2003). Seasonal affective disorder: An overview. Chronobiology International, 20(2), 189–207. https://doi.org/10.1081/CBI-120019046