Why does summer makes me gloomy? DR MARTIN SCURR answers your health questions

Why does summer makes me gloomy? DR MARTIN SCURR answers your health questions
Why does summer makes me gloomy? DR MARTIN SCURR answers your health questions

For years I’ve suffered from the summer version of seasonal affective disorder. This condition is rarely recognised by the general public (and even some doctors), but the symptoms are just as distressing as those of the winter equivalent. Any advice would be welcome.

Tim Stephens, Newcastle.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which typically causes depressed mood and low energy, is, as you say, not as well recognised as it should be.

The condition most commonly begins in autumn and usually improves by spring (if untreated in the interim), but it can also occur in summer, as in your case.

Unfortunately, it often goes undiagnosed. In fact, one study by psychiatrists from the U.S. and Canada found that as many as 60 per cent of patients with SAD had never previously been treated for this form of depression, despite having had symptoms.

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This may be because while psychiatrists are familiar with the condition, I suspect that many GPs are not.

Research suggests that up to 3 per cent of people will experience SAD at some point in their lives, and it appears to be more common among women (we don’t know why). As for the cause, one theory is that the changes in daylight hours affect our bodies’ natural rhythms, which vary over a 24-hour cycle in response to light and darkness.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which typically causes depressed mood and low energy, is, as you say, not as well recognised as it should be

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which typically causes depressed mood and low energy, is, as you say, not as well recognised as it should be

This affects the production of hormones such as melatonin, which governs sleep, and serotonin, which affects mood.

The alteration can have different effects on people, with some experiencing SAD when the days are long, as in your case, rather than short, as in winter SAD.

The condition may also be influenced by genetics, while some studies suggest that it could be related to nerve cells in the brain functioning abnormally and affecting the release of hormones.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs, which are effective antidepressants, are commonly prescribed for SAD.

In addition, for summer SAD lifestyle changes such as exposing yourself to no more than 13 hours of daylight each day to help boost melatonin, and staying cool at night (a drop in temperature promotes sleep), are thought to be helpful.

I’ve always been very fit, but for several years I’ve been short of breath when walking, and now gardening. My stomach has felt distended by wind and I frequently burp. Have you any idea what is causing

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