Most of us are aware that the the winter months can trigger a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is estimated that this condition affects about 5 percent of the population. But did you know that a smaller percentage of the population – estimated at about 1 percent – suffer from what is often referred to as reverse seasonal affective disorder, or RSAD? This is a condition which begins in the spring months and may continue throughout the summer.
The Mayo Clinic reports that in rare cases, people who suffer from RSAD can experience symptoms of mania or hypomania, a less intense form of mania, rather than the depressive symptoms that plague those suffering from winter SAD.
Because this condition is not as prevalent as winter SAD, there is less information on causes and treatment. Sara Ivry wrote an excellent article about Summer SAD a few years ago in The New York Times. She notes that:
As with depression generally, more women than men appear to suffer from this condition, at a ratio some estimates put as high as two to one. It is most common among women in their reproductive years, but its onset sometimes comes as early as childhood. Researchers think it may also have a genetic component; more than two-thirds of patients with SAD have a relative with a major mood disorder.
The symptoms of the two forms of the disorder often vary, heightening the confusion. People with the more common variety typically feel lethargic in the colder months, crave carbohydrates, gain weight and sleep excessively. Those afflicted during the summer often experience agitation, loss of appetite, insomnia and, in extreme cases, increased suicidal fantasies.
While winter SAD seems to be linked to low light levels and the body’s melatonin level, the cause of summer SAD is less clear. As near as research can pinpoint, it seems to be linked to heat and tends to be more prevalent in hotter regions. “Epidemiological data in the United States have shown a higher proportion of people in the South depressed in the summer. The proportion rises as the latitude diminishes.”
From an employer view, it is important to note any mood or behavioral changes in workers that affect performance, but diagnosing the reason for that change is not something that an employer should undertake. It’s helpful if supervisors can be trained to be alert for common symptoms of depression and changes in work performance that might signify a problem, but leave the diagnosing and treatment to your organization’s EAP or medical professionals.