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You’ve probably heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (commonly known as SAD), a condition that leads people to feel depressed during the winter months. However, little-known fact: 10 percent of SAD sufferers actually suffer from Reverse SAD, a condition in which they get depressed in the warmer months.
For many people, the idea of being depressed on a warm, sunny day sounds nuts. After all, who doesn’t love basking in the hot rays of the sun and watching the world come alive after months of winter?
Well, me, for one.
While many people report feeling lethargic, apathetic or just generally “blah” in the wintertime, I find my experience to be the complete opposite. I love freezing cold weather, sunless days and bare trees. But when warm weather and long, bright days roll around, I start to feel a powerful shift in my mood and energy. I’m irritable. I have low energy. I have trouble sleeping and my appetite diminishes. I just want to curl up in bed, shut the blinds, crank the A/C and wait until the first snowfall before I peek out again. I sound like a vampire, but I assure you I am not. (Not unless vampires live on Chipotle and sour gummy worms.)
Just as people with SAD experience depression due to lack of sunlight (and hence a disruption in their brain chemicals, which can impact mood and energy), the exact same thing happens to people with Reverse SAD. An increase in sunlight can cause your brain chemicals (such as melatonin) to shift, thereby negatively impacting your mood.
Sound counterintuitive? The truth is that Reverse SAD is still under-researched, and many people don’t even know that this condition exists, which means that they do not seek treatment or give voice to their concerns.
What Can I Do About My Reverse SAD?
If you think you might have Reverse SAD, how can you treat the symptoms? The medical community has few answers as of yet, although it’s clear that most people with Reverse SAD feel better when they are in an air-conditioned room rather than outside in the bright sun. Antidepressants might also be a worthwhile option for you to consider.
Anecdotally, I can say that taking cold showers (as cold as you can stand) are helpful, but the effects don’t last long. At the height of my Reverse SAD (during a time when I was pregnant and our air conditioner just couldn’t get cold enough to satisfy me), I stayed sane by taking cold showers frequently and also dunking my head in ice-cold water before bed. Cold, wet hair helped me stay cool during the night and allowed me to fall asleep. (You might also purchase a memory foam pillow with cool gel inside.)
I also try to keep my blinds closed as much as possible, and I use very dim lighting throughout my house. During the day, I try to keep the lights off. Doing this not only keeps your environment less overwhelmingly bright, but it also helps you to save energy.
Diet wise, I find that when I eat meals that are high in carbs, I am more prone to irritability and intense hot flashes. So, although it’s hard to resist my carb-y favorites, I try to limit my intake of starch. It’s also best to avoid turning on the oven (the slow-cooker is your friend), and to eat smaller meals more frequently.
These ideas are based on my personal experience, and they can only offer minor improvement, if any. If you are struggling with depression, please talk to your doctor. Reverse SAD can be a struggle, but the good news is that winter will come again. Until then, let’s Netflix and chill… literally!
[h/t: Psychology Today]