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Coping with summertime sadness

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Mental disorder an underreported problem

OLD FORGE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – It’s the first full week of summer which, for many, is filled with beach trips, backyard barbecues and other fun activities. You may think it’s a time of year everyone looks forward to but that’s not the case.

It may be hard for many of us to comprehend, but for some of us depression tends to spike in summer. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller looked into what you need to know when you can’t seem to shake the summertime blues.

“It’s good for the soul. You know, it’s very nice,” said Ronnie Musgrave. He and his three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Vada, were enjoying their favorite time of year on Tuesday at Miles Street Park. “After long winters in mud and rain like you said it’s nice to get three or four good months of summer,” said Mr. Musgrave.

But unlike the Musgraves, this time of year is tough for people who suffer from what’s called reverse seasonal affective disorder. Psychiatrist Matthew Berger, MD said, “There tends to be more irritability, a little bit of hyperness. You tend to have an inability to fall asleep and stay asleep, restless and a general sense of more anxiety and depression.”

So, what’s behind this condition? Unlike seasonal affective disorder or SAD which strikes in fall and winter when sunlight is limited, reverse SAD results from prolonged daylight. It produces excessive levels of serotonin which regulates everything from a person’s mood and appetite to their memory and sleep. Dr. Berger said, “Their sleep-wake cycle comes off and that plays a big role, that whole circadian rhythm is changing which can cause depression.”

Dr. Berger says other stressers come into play like working while others are vacationing or worrying about self-image because you’re wearing less clothing than in colder weather. “You’re watching the ads on tv for everybody who’s drinking beer and is a size two, you know, and guys who have six-pack abs and look like they’re having fun on the beach and you’re thinking well I don’t look like that.”

Dr. Berger recommends keeping your perspective in check to help cure the summertime blues. “Have realistic expectations. You know, it’s not one giant party. And 99 percent of the world aren’t like the people on the commercials.”

Other recommendations to cope with summertime sadness include staying out of the heat, planning for quiet time, and maintaining a sleep schedule. Dr. Berger says it’s time to seek professional help when your summertime sadness interferes with your function.

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