Why is Summertime Sadness a Thing?
Warm weather? More sunlight? Ice cream trucks and hot people, picnics in the park, AND day trips to the beach? What could possibly be depressing about all that? For some people, including about 10% of the US population, the summer is not the time when the most serotonin is released. Rather, it can be when their seasonal affective disorder (ironically referred to as SAD) creeps in. But what's behind this mysterious disorder that, with most, is reserved for the winter months? Isn't dirtied gray street snow much more depressing than sunbathed garden flowers?
As someone who has experienced summertime sadness several times, I've always wondered what about summer made me want to draw my blinds down on beautiful sunny days and avoid social gatherings that were meant to be engaging and really didn't call for the punk attitude I imposed on friends and family when they'd ask to hang out at their "stupid pool."
Had a memory of a past summer event scarred the way I viewed this renowned season? Was it just my time of the year to clock in my depression hours? Or did I simply need to get … a real problem? (implying that I just needed to get a life already, teenage me) In fact, the answer is the latter though I still found this feeling of summer dread to be fascinating.
According to Georgetown Psychology, summertime sadness can be a result of the long, seemingly endless days with lots of light and heat, throwing off a person's circadian rhythm. Which is like your own personal clock that experiences changes over the course of a full day. So do you just need a nap? Possibly. Yet, more remains to be uncovered about this peculiar, Debbie-downer reaction to the most apparently exciting season of the year.
It is much more sensical that feelings of depression would occur during the long winter months, where the darkness of the night creeps in way too early, and most have dreams of hibernating through the cold. But what else causes these common summertime sadness symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, restlessness? And pure, uncensored nihilism?
Well, birth months have been linked to the problem. As someone born during a literal snowstorm, I'd still rather trudge through Winterfell wearing adult snow pants and burning my tongue on hot chocolate even if no one will talk to me from December to February in the bitter coldness than play dodgeball on the beach. But to put it more scientifically, Smithsonian Magazine suggests that "researchers at Vanderbilt University pinpointed the mid-brain region that may be a source of SAD—the dorsal raphe nucleus, where many of the neurons that control serotonin levels are located." And for some, serotonin happens to be more present in their systems during the best time of the year, (cough) winter.
How do you get better if you're experiencing this and thought up to this point that you were the only one? Well, there are treatment options out there, ranging from light therapy to medication. But might I also suggest making #CoolGirlWinter a thing to look forward to?
For more of Oona's sarcasm and attempted wit, visit her site, oonaoffthecuff.com
Top Image: Adam Kontor/Pixabay