Most of us understand what it’s like to get the winter blues, where the only thing we want to do is cuddle up and watch Netflix for hours on end. However, for some of us, these blues are serious enough to be classified as a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly referred to as SAD. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, SAD is a type of depression that’s directly related to the change of seasons and affects people at the same time every year. Symptoms may include depression, loss of interest, low energy, sleep disturbances, changes in appetite or weight, negative thoughts, and/or thoughts of suicide (if you are having suicidal thoughts or ideations, talk to your therapist or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-274-8255. Chat is available here for those who are deaf or hard of hearing). While most people think SAD only appears in the winter, summer SAD is surprisingly common and starts in late spring and lasts until early fall. The most common symptoms of summer SAD are insomnia, poor appetite, weight loss, and anxiety (Mayo Clinic, 2017).
While many people think of the warm months as a time to look forward to, summer can exacerbate eating disorder symptoms and cause SAD for some of the 30 million people who struggle with eating disorders. Studies have found that “summer SAD,” which is related to an increase in light and temperature, is found at “unexpectedly high” rates in people with eating disorders (Hardin et al., 1991). This may be attributed to the fact that eating disorders can worsen in the summer due to a variety of circumstances, resulting in increased rates of depression. Certain things about summer are thought to contribute to increased severity of eating disorder symptoms, including:
Pair these circumstances with summer SAD and the results can be severe (Liang, 2016). A study conducted for the Journal of Psychiatric Research demonstrated that there is a statistically significant increase in hospital admissions of patients with eating disorders during the summer months, suggesting that summer can increase the severity of eating disorders (Liang, 2016).
We know summer isn’t going to stop, so what can we do to make summer a safe time? For those with eating disorders, try the following practices to stay on track with your eating disorder recovery:
If you’re supporting someone else in eating disorder recovery, try the following practices:
In the end, we are all in the fight against body shaming and eating disorders together! So, be a vocal, supportive, and informed ally. As always, if you are seeking help with an eating disorder, please reach out to The Emily Program at 1-888-364-5977. We would love to be a part of your recovery journey.
Hardin, T. A., Wehr, T. A., Brewerton, T., Kasper, S., Berrettini, W., Rabkin, J., & Rosenthal, N. E. (1991). Evaluation of seasonality in six clinical populations and two normal populations. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 25(3), 75-87. doi:10.1016/0022-3956(91)90001-q
Liang, C., Chung, C., Tsai, C., & Chien, W. (2016). Seasonality of hospital admissions and birth dates among inpatients with eating disorders: A nationwide population-based retrospective study. Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, 23(2), 233-240. doi:10.1007/s40519-016-0326-0
Seasonal Affective Disorder – Genetics Home Reference. (2018, May 22). Retrieved from https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/seasonal-affective-disorder#statistics Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). (2017, October 25). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). (2017, October 25). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
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