Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is often associated with cold weather and dark nights, but it’s not only winter that can cause mental well-being to take a dive. Many people with eating disorders find summer is a far scarier time of year, with existing conditions potentially worsening as the weather warms. But why is that?
If you’re concerned that you or someone you know is struggling more with an eating disorder now that it’s summer, we’ve put together a guide to help.
Professional Help is Available
Before looking into why eating disorders can be harder to deal with in the summer, it’s important to note that any eating disorder requires professional help. If you’re experiencing an eating disorder or you know someone who is, look into treatment centres in the UK. With professional treatment, summers – and every other season – don’t have to be so hard.
Increased Body Image Concerns
Bikinis, swimming trunks, shorts, and vest tops can all become triggers for someone with an eating disorder. Warmer weather means less clothing, which can bring up issues for those who are body image-conscious, causing distress and anxiety.
For someone with an eating disorder, it can be hard to see everybody else’s bodies on display without feeling more conscious of their own.
Wearing clothes that show off more of the body can be stressful, too. The less an individual wears, the more conscious they’ll be of their perceived flaws, and it can lead to issues like body checking. This is where the individual is constantly seeking out information about their own appearance, including weight and shape, which is a common side-effect of eating disorders.
Shifts in Normal Routine
Routine is known to be incredibly important for those who struggle with their mental health. Repeating tasks takes the stress out of daily life and brings order to what can feel like chaos, helping those with eating disorders to stay on top of their mental well-being.
But summer can bring about a change in normal routine, with a busier social calendar, no school for students, and summer holidays all making day-to-day habits harder to keep. This disruption makes it trickier for some to maintain their mental well-being, leaving space for difficult feelings to resurface.
Negative Social Media Influences
Even without going to the beach, it can be hard to escape seeing more of people’s bodies. In particular, social media can be full of bikinis, swimming costumes, and trunks, with people flaunting their figures whilst the sun’s out, all of which can create more negativity around body image.
Editing creates unrealistic expectations, too, and what you’re seeing on social media isn’t always a realistic portrayal of what people look like. But to anyone scrolling through the pictures, it’s hard to make that distinction.
With more time than ever to scroll during the summer, it’s hard not to get sucked in. This can lead to body comparisons and pressure to look like the people on Instagram or TikTok, all of which can worsen existing eating disorder symptoms.
Busy Schedules Can Be Stressful
Summer is a time of holidays, beach days, and drinks out with friends. But for all that fun comes a packed schedule which doesn’t necessarily leave a lot of ‘you time’. People with mental health problems can find their summer itinerary more stressful than serene, leading to a breakdown in usual coping mechanisms.
It also makes it harder for loved ones to spot any warning signs. Eating out and frequently being on the go creates a harder environment to keep an unconscious eye on the person you’re concerned for, and symptoms could arise without others noticing.
How to Cope with Eating Disorders During Summer
Bodies are on show, life is busy, and there’s no such thing as routine; it’s easy to see how those with eating disorders can find the summer months tricky. Fortunately, though, there are a lot of ways you can navigate the heat without stress, and we’ve put together some of our top tips to help.
Speak to a Professional
Even if you’ve overcome your eating disorder, if the thought of summer is making you anxious it’s always best to speak to a professional. Having a ‘just in case’ appointment will help you talk through your feelings and create a summer coping plan that’s tailored towards your concerns.
Book another appointment for a few weeks’ time to see how you’re getting on and be sure to attend even if you’re doing well. It’s always better to play it safe.
Create a Summer Wardrobe You Feel Comfortable In
Wearing clothes that you feel comfortable and confident in will make navigating the heat a lot easier. It doesn’t always have to be short shorts and crop tops if those styles are triggering for you. Instead, spend time shopping for warm-weather clothing that suits your look and makes you feel good.
Plan Times to Eat into Your Schedule
A busy schedule can lead to eating being pushed to the back of your mind. But, if part of your recovery is ensuring you spend the time to make and eat healthy meals, stick to it. Prioritise making room for meal preparation and don’t become so overbooked that your recovery slips into second place.
Spend Time with People Who Make You Feel Good
By surrounding yourself with people who love and support you, you won’t be alone during the summer. Be open with someone you trust about your concerns and go to them whenever you need to chat. Avoid being around people who bring you down or talk about body image in a negative way, and consciously surround yourself with good vibes to create a feel-good summer.
There’s no doubt that summer can be difficult for people with eating disorders, so it pays for all of us to take extra care of our own mental well-being and those around us. If you or someone you know is struggling, remember that help is always available and our team is ready to listen.