“Sometimes I wonder what am I gonna do—‘Cause there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues”
With the days in the Coachella Valley now longer and warmer, some of you might find yourself feeling somewhat down, depressed and irritable; you are not alone! You may be suffering from the summer variant of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or what I call “reverse SAD.”
Unlike the characteristics of the more common and classical wintertime variety of SAD (which often includes oversleeping, daytime fatigue, carbohydrate craving and weight gain, diminished sexual interest, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, lack of interest in normal activities and withdrawal from usual social situations) the symptoms of the so-called “summertime blues”
are usually variably characterized by insomnia, decreased appetite, weight loss, agitation, anxiety and feelings of depression.
The condition is more common in women with research indicating that the role of warmer temperatures, rather than light exposure, may be the triggering factor. The mechanism of this is theorized as perhaps occurring via suppression of thyroid hormone (leading to fatigue) with a simultaneous increase in pituitary gland secretion of growth hormone and prolactin (also contributing to lethargy and an overall diminishment of enjoyment and pleasure).
So, if you’re wondering what you’re “gonna do” if you’ve got the “summertime blues,” consider the following strategies:
- Limit your exposure to heat, staying indoors during mid-day and traveling to cooler climates whenever possible. If your medical status and condition allows, try using the local tramway to bask or stroll in the San Jacinto Wilderness once every week or two during the hot season to ‘reset’ your internal thermometer.
- Develop a habit of routine, mild exercise in the coolness of an air-conditioned gym, in a swimming pool or outdoors in the more user-friendly hours of the early morning and/or late evening.
- Adhere to a regimen of good sleep hygiene with a goal of obtaining seven to eight hours nightly of minimally-disrupted sleep. Consider opaque window coverings or sleep masks to avoid having the early morning light awaken you prematurely.
- Counseling for cognitive therapy can help you learn new coping strategies to better deal with the symptoms of reverse SAD and to think more positively and flexibly about your situation.
- Address this issue pharmacologically with appropriate prescription agents or natural remedies should more conservative strategies not offer adequate control of your symptoms. You should discuss this with your primary care physician or psychiatrist.
For more information on senior depression, you can contact the Eisenhower Behavioral Health Clinic at (760) 837.8767. The Clinic offers outpatient behavioral health services in a safe, secure, comfortable environment with board certified psychiatrists and other licensed professionals.
So, like the song says…“I’m gonna take two weeks, gonna have a vacation…….”
Stay cool, be active, remain positive, get lots of sleep and maybe we’ll see each other cooling off on a hike up the hill sometime soon!
Dr. Pecchia is board certified in family medicine and geriatrics and part of the Eisenhower 365 Personalized Care Program which can be reached at (760) 610.7300.