There’s an old country song with the lyric, “There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.” Fortunately, this isn’t necessarily the case. While the summertime blues, or seasonal affective disorder as we call it in the therapy world, can be overwhelming and difficult to diagnose, there are some effective methods of addressing and mitigating the effects of seasonal affective disorder, including cognitive behavioral therapy. In this blog, we’ll talk about exactly what the summertime blues are and what you can expect from working with a therapist to address seasonal affective disorder symptoms.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is often referred to simply as SAD. It’s still an apt acronym as SAD is a form of major depressive disorder, which can lead to high levels of sadness and low mood. Many people experience this condition during the cold winter months when the lack of sunlight and cold temperatures limit activity. The winter holidays can also create added stressors that trigger SAD.
While most people associate this condition with winter, summertime SAD also occurs. The longer days and higher temperatures may negatively impact sleep. The heat and added sunlight can damage skin, leading some people to limit time outdoors for safety reasons. Some simply dislike being outside during the heat. Others find themselves feeling envious of friends and loved ones who have the means to travel or take breaks while they’re stuck at work or school. Those who struggle with body image issues may have more pronounced symptoms during the summer season. Whatever the cause, summertime SAD can make motivation to keep up with daily activities difficult and leave people feeling listless and unsatisfied.
How Can I Tell It’s SAD & Not Something Else?
Each person’s summertime SAD symptoms will look a little different, but knowing and recognizing some of the common side effects is the best way to help your therapist provide an accurate diagnosis. As you consider the symptoms below, think about when you experience them. Is it just in the summertime? Do you feel this way every summer? Is this a new experience? Be sure to tell your therapist about your symptoms, when you experience them, and how intense the side effects are.
- Lacking motivation even to complete tasks that bring you joy
- Isolating from others
- Feeling sad or low most of the time with little relief
- Feeling tired or having low energy levels
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Eating too much or too little
- Weight loss or gain
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Anger and irritability
- Anxiety or worry
- Suicidal ideation
Can Therapy Help?
There are many beneficial forms of therapy that can help you address the impact of seasonal affective disorder. Many people have the mistaken impression that they just need to wait out their symptoms until the season changes. This is simply not the case. Working with a therapist, you can devise a plan to minimize the effects of summertime SAD before they begin and alleviate symptoms as they arise. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the best therapeutic approaches for those who struggle with depression, including SAD. Specifically, there is a form of CBT called behavioral activation that has been shown to significantly improve the effects of depression. Behavioral activation focuses on changing a specific behavior to activate more satisfying emotional response. For instance, if laying in bed all day makes you feel sad and hopeless, getting out of bed and performing a task can help alleviate the adverse effects. By making a plan to perform specific action each day and avoid actions that trigger the symptoms of SAD, you will start to notice decrease in negative thinking and emotions.
How Do I Get Started?
If you’re interested in working with The Center for CBT in New York City, we’d love to hear from you. Simply take a few moments to get in touch by calling (917) 596-8955 or completing our online scheduling request form. One of our team members will be happy to answer any questions you have and work with you to develop a plan for your first visit.