Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime Blues?

SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder Isn’t Only for Winter

For the past two years I’ve been able to control that “cabin fever” that usually comes with mid-winter, even in Florida. I know all about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and so tried to spend as much time outdoors in the sun as possible. But for some reason, even though I escaped SAD in the winter, I have been miserable come spring and on into summer.

Every year on the first morning that you can actually taste springtime, I will wake up, get dressed in gardening clothes and take a cup of coffee outside to sit and anticipate the relaxing activities of re-potting and planting for my annual “herb garden”. This ritual is one that I use to transition from the low activity levels of winter to increasingly higher levels, beginning in spring and reaching the “busy bee” peak for summer.

But this year…this year…

One morning on my way to work, there was just the least, residual hint of chill in the early air, the sun was beautifully hot and a chance breeze blew across my face and whispered, “Spring…” softly in my ear.  I smiled, planning in my mind how I would be spending the first day of the coming weekend.

Saturday rolled around. I had been having a hard time getting to sleep and an equally as difficult time trying to wake up.  Trying to get organized was next to impossible and I’d wind up with this excess of energy, running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. It looked like today would be no different.

Regardless of waking up on the wrong side of the bed so to speak, I was determined to keep my date with the first “real” spring morning and took my coffee out to the patio table. My husband joined me a few minutes later with a cheery, “Good morning, sweetheart!”, for which he received a disgruntled frown and growl.

“Why are you so depressed? SPRING HAS SPRUNG!”

angry_old_woman

“Don’t make me come out there!”

I probably shouldn’t post my response on a “No Adult Content” blog.

You get the picture.

It was time to study the phenomenon called “Seasonal Affective Disorder”…in depth.

Nearly everyone knows what Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is. Common SAD occurs during late-autumn and winter and generally lets up come spring. Studies indicate that the primary culprit is lower levels of natural light that cause sufferers to become depressed, lethargic and generally out of sorts. The usual treatment includes light therapy and the use of Vitamin D supplements (because Vitamin D is absorbed through sunlight). The most common symptoms of SAD include:

  • depression
  • hopelessness
  • anxiety
  • weight gain
  • oversleeping
  • trouble concentrating

But not that everyone knows that there is an opposite to SAD.

Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs when the sun is brighter, most times beginning in early spring and lasting all the way through summer. the symptoms of Reverse SAD are similar to common SAD but there are definite exceptions. Depression and anxiety are common to both; the exceptions include:

  • insomnia
  • agitation (jitters)
  • weight loss
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • increased libido (sex drive)

3204_398_583-scn-pineal-melatoninAs a little FYI for Dummies, light, or sunlight, follows a path from your retina to a group of cells in the hypothalamus. These cells send signals to the pineal gland, telling it how much or little melatonin it should produce (if you click on the image at right you can view a full sized illustration of how this process works). The maximum amount produced aids sleep while the least amount results in a depressed desire to sleep.

Along with other chemical signals, the schedule of production of melatonin falls into a type of pattern that can be altered or interrupted by outside stimuli, such as the change in the direction from which the sun shines, or its intensity, depending on the season. This pattern is what is referred to as Circadian Rhythm, or one’s Circadian Clock. When the stimuli are imposing enough to knock your Circadian rhythm off, your brain’s chemical balance is thrown off; too much melatonin at the wrong rate of production: Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder. Too little at the wrong rate/wrong time: Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder.   Not strictly scientific, but close enough to get the idea, right?

Well, that’s about enough of the scientific explanation anyway. Suffice it to say that there is an explanation at all, and if I can understand the logic of it, then it must make sense!

Before you decide whether or not you are suffering from either Seasonal Affective Disorder or Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, keep track of the symptoms you are exhibiting.  Sometimes these symptoms can indicate something more serious, such a Bipolar Disorder. If you notice that you (or someone you know) have symptoms like extended periods of mood “highs” and “lows”, extreme enthusiasm which is out of context with a given situation or show signs of rapid thoughts or speech, you should consult a doctor immediately to consider making an appointment for testing.

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