No season gets better press than summer. The livin’ is easy, school’s out for it, and Demi Lovato is cool for it. Even Shakespeare waxed poetic while sweating in his Elizabethan doublet centuries before the invention of air conditioning: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
But summer doesn’t mean fun in the sun for everyone. Some people become downright sick of summer. This condition even has a name: summer-onset seasonal affective disorder. If seasonal affective disorder comes with the apt acronym SAD, does that mean summer-onset seasonal affective disorder is SO SAD? Let’s find out more.
Why so SAD?
What is seasonal affective disorder? Most cases are related to winter, when days are shorter, nights are longer, and the cold keeps people holed up indoors instead of outside, absorbing sunlight. This results in lethargy, sadness, the feeling that you’ll never be warm or see the sun again.
Why this happens to the 5 percent of adult Americans with SAD isn’t fully understood, but all evidence points to decreased sunlight messing with our circadian rhythm — the 24-hour cycle that drives the sleep-wake schedule and drops levels of serotonin, the brain chemical that affects mood.
While people who experience SAD during winter feel listless and gloomy and tend to oversleep and overeat, people with summer SAD feel the opposite. They often experience insomnia and loss of appetite and feel agitated or anxious.
Bright lights, big problems
Because sunlight is the key to SAD cases, it’s thought that SO SAD (my unofficial, totally made-up acronym) is due to too much sun. Too much sunlight turns off production of melatonin, the hormone that drives the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is the vampire of hormones because it only comes out in the dark. Even turning on the light in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom is enough to pause its production. And longer days means fewer hours at the melatonin factory.
It’s hot, and it’s making me mad
In addition to all that endless, blinding sun disrupting your circadian rhythm, the heat of summer has been found to make those living with SAD anxious and angry. However, this anger is not your typical “Why is the air-conditioning not working?” rant, and it’s more than a flaring temper during an oppressive heat wave.
Who gets summer-onset SAD?
Certain people are more likely to have both kinds of SAD. Risks include:
- Being a woman: Females are affected by SAD more often than males, but men report more severe symptoms.
- Having a relative with SAD: Like other mood disorders, there seems to be a genetic component to SAD.
- Living closer to the equator: The New York Times reported on research that showed people in hotter, southern states have more summer SAD than people in the north.
- Having bipolar disorder or clinical depression: Sensitivity to SAD symptoms may be worsened by seasonal changes in people who are bipolar or clinically depressed.
There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues?
If you have summer-onset SAD, you don’t have to be bummed from June to September, listening to Lana Del Rey balefully croon “Summertime Sadness” on a loop and counting down the hours until Labor Day.
There are proactive treatments for summer SAD that run the gamut from air conditioners to antidepressants.
- Seek dark rooms: Since summer SAD’s connection to sunlight is the opposite of winter SAD, so is the preferred environment. Instead of light therapy, people who have summer-onset SAD are advised to spend more time in darkened rooms. You might miss a beach day or two, but you’ll feel better, and your skin is going to look amazing when you’re old.
- Find that AC: Avoid inflating your utility bill by taking in as many movies as possible. Movie theaters are dark (bonus!) and their thermostats always seem to be set to “arctic.” Bring a sweater.
- Get help: Talking it out with a professional can help you manage stress, find healthy coping strategies, learn how to stay positive, and manage the FOMO you might feel around friends who can’t stop talking about the great time they’re having at the cookout.
Bottom line: 8 all-too-real things only people with summer-onset SAD understand
- The end of daylight saving time might as well be the apocalypse.
- There aren’t sunglasses big enough or dark enough. There just aren’t.
- People envy your lack of appetite during bathing suit season the way you envy their enthusiasm for bathing suit season.
- You’d rather watch a documentary about the history of plastic than go to a July 4th barbecue.
- The Beach Boys need to pipe the hell down.
- Your dream vacation destination is Winterfell, from “Game of Thrones.”
- Global warming scares you for a different reason.
- Given the choice between a picnic with Ryan Gosling and blackout shades, you’d pick the blackout shades.
Dara Nai is an LA-based humor writer whose credits include scripted television, entertainment and pop-culture journalism, celebrity interviews, and cultural commentary. She has also appeared in her own show for LOGO TV, written two independent sitcoms, and, inexplicably, served as a judge at an international film festival.