By: Dr. W. Scott West, Medical Director, Nashville NeuroCare Therapy
You’ve probably heard of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) identifies SAD as “significant changes in . . . mood and behavior whenever the seasons change.” Most people with SAD experience depressive symptoms during the winter, when the days get shorter, and the weather gets colder. Seasonal Affective Disorder is more extreme than just the “winter blues.” In fact, it’s not just limited to the winter. For some people, summer can trigger SAD at the turn of the warmer months. This is often referred to as summer-pattern SAD or reverse SAD.
Why might summer trigger depression for some people? Due to little research on reverse SAD, not much is definitely known about its causes. The only thing known for sure is that changes in light and temperature play a role. While for many of us, more light and warmer weather are energizing, for others, heat, humidity, and no reprieve from sunlight can be overwhelming and agitating. Endless days, stifling heat, disrupted daily rhythms, and unique social stressors can all contribute to depressive symptoms during the summer.
Symptoms of summer-pattern SAD include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Violent behavior
- Typical depressive symptoms include but are not limited to low energy, loss of interest in favorite activities, and feelings of hopelessness.
These seasonal symptoms for summer-pattern SAD are opposite to those of winter SAD. Rather than sleeping too much and eating more, those experiencing reverse SAD are more likely to experience difficulties sleeping and lose their appetites in the summer. Agitation and irritation— presumably due to increases in heat and light— are also unique symptoms for summertime SAD.
Regardless of whether SAD affects one in the summer or winter, this depressive disorder is “characterized by its recurrent seasonal pattern, with symptoms lasting about 4 to 5 months per year” (NIMH). With 4-5 months of your life affected each and every year, you deserve help that provides real relief.
Fortunately, treatment is available and, since Seasonal Affective Disorder is seasonal, it’s possible to prevent it. You can predict when it’s going to strike each year and get treatment ahead of time to help manage the triggering months ahead. When it comes to professional treatment, light therapy is a common treatment for winter SAD, according to SAD researcher Kelly Rohan, Ph.D., light therapy might not be as effective for summer-pattern SAD. However, reverse SAD can be treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication, or TMS Therapy. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS therapy, uses magnetic pulse technology to stimulate the parts of the brain that regulate mood and behavior. These areas are often underactive in depressed brains. TMS Therapy targets these underactive areas, promoting your brain to build and strengthen new neural pathways that help you control mood and behavior, which provides real and lasting relief from depression. This treatment is proven safe, effective, and is non-invasive. Plus, there are no adverse side effects commonly associated with antidepressants because TMS Therapy is 100% drug-free.
TMS Therapy can offer new hope if you or someone you love is struggling with reverse SAD and failing to find relief from medication or talk therapy. Contact our office today for a consultation to see how TMS therapy can help you find relief from seasonal depression.