There's a Scientific Reason You Feel Sad in August (Video)
The summer sun is starting to wane, kids are heading back to school, and the nights are getting just a touch colder, which can only mean one thing: It’s August.
While the month of August still has plenty worth celebrating, like the end-of-summer barbecues, the time spent with friends at the beach, and the last remaining vestiges of summer vacation, sometimes even the happiest of times can’t compare to what Stephen Ferrando, director of psychiatry at Westchester Medical Center, called the “August blues.”
“August blues... are sort of like the Sunday night blues for a month,” Ferrando told New York Magazine in a recent piece about the emotional phenomena. And for the small percentage of us who feel those emotional drops, it can actually translate to what is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
“In order to be diagnosed with a mood disorder, you have to have at least two weeks of pretty persistent symptoms that don’t really get better,” Ferrando said. But even if your feelings don’t quite match up to the true definition of SAD, you may experience what is known as a “subclinical” version of the disorder.
Related: How to Beat the Post-vacation Blues
“Something that is more subclinical has a shorter duration, is less severe, and fluctuates,” Ferrando said. “If something good happens, you feel better, and if something not so good happens, you feel worse, but it’s a little more reactive to circumstance. A true disorder doesn’t react well to circumstance.”
And while usually those who suffer from seasonal depression see their symptoms flare in the winter months due to a lack of exposure to daylight, August brings with it its own unique triggers, according to New York Magazine, including anxiety over the impending school season, the end of vacation time, and the dread of the upcoming holiday season.
The key to staving off these negative emotions, Rachel Annunziato, associate professor of psychology at Fordham University, told New York Magazine, is allowing yourself these last few days of summer to unplug and reflect.
“Sometimes I feel guilty about [taking a break in August], and think I have to keep plugging along,” Annunziato said. “But I think if you haven’t already, this is an important time to give yourself a bit of a break.”
Additionally, TODAY reported that summer SAD may affect 1 percent of the total population. Beyond unplugging, Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor in the School of Public Health at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, suggested people engage in a few activities they love with the people they adore.
“What you can’t do is allow the funk to isolate you,” he said, adding that while it may be tough, August is the perfect time to push through the emotional blocks and head out to spend time with friends at an event, a movie, or simply sitting together in your favorite cafe to avoid end-of-summer sulking.