When people discuss seasonal depression, they frequently associate it with the wintertime. But while it’s pretty rare to hear about seasonal depression in summer, it does exist. As we approach the summer season, it’s important to understand the effects that Seasonal Affective Disorder may have on our friends, or even ourselves.
Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a form of depression caused specifically by a change in the seasons. Most people with SAD begin experiencing symptoms in the late fall. Some people get a milder version of SAD, commonly referred to as the “winter blues.”
There’s an important difference here, however. Although the winter blues can make you feel upset and unmotivated, people are usually still motivated enough to complete bigger tasks, such as going to work and taking care of your house. On the contrary, SAD is a form of major depressive disorder. People with SAD can have symptoms that are severe and even debilitating, such as fatigue, hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, and suicidal thoughts, according to VeryWell Mind. Most people with SAD have this disorder during the winter, starting in the fall and resolving around spring and summertime. People who have SAD in the winter typically live in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast, where gray cloudy skies last for a longer portion of the year.
How common is summer SAD?
Only around 5% of adults in the U.S. experience SAD, but 10% of people with SAD have it in the summer — this is often referred to as “summer depression.” In countries like India, which is closer to the equator and therefore experiences warmer temperatures for a longer part of the year, summer SAD is actually more common than winter SAD.
What causes summer SAD?
For people with summer SAD, their depression will typically develop in the spring or summer, and end in the fall. Although there’s no specific reasoning behind the occurrence of summer depression, experts theorize that it could be due to increase of humidity, body image issues, drastic change in schedule, and financial worries.
Dr. Brenda Wade, a nationally recognized psychologist and relationship expert, tells Her Campus that there are many outside factors that can contribute to summer SAD. “Beyond science, there are many things that create change in our lives during the summer,” she says. “These changes include schedule changes, summer vacations, daylight pattern changes (hours of sunlight are longer), and generally an increase in activities overall. All of these can contribute to SAD. Any change in your normal routine can throw a person off, but when changes begin to affect your mood in a negative way, it’s time to analyze why.”
Wade was also able to dig into the scientific factors surrounding the development of summer SAD. “There are several factors involved with summer SAD and include a decrease in melatonin production,” she explains (melatonin is a hormone that drives your sleep cycle), “as too much sunlight turns off melatonin production.” Wade added that the increase of sunlight for some people can affect your circadian rhythm. “High levels of sun can also disrupt your circadian rhythm, which can make a person more anxious and irritable,” she says.
Your daily routine can help you combat summer SAD.
If you feel that summer SAD may be occurring for you as the warmer months arrive, it’s crucial that you take care of yourself. “If you are struggling with SAD, you can incorporate several things into your daily routine that may help,” Wade says. Her suggestions include:
- Stay indoors and limit the amount of sun exposure you have.
- Make sure you are in air conditioning to keep yourself as cool as possible.
- Put some dark shades in your room so that the morning light doesn’t affect your sleep.
- Plan your vacations ahead of time and include stress-relieving activities. Carefully consider who to include in your vacation plans, as there are people who get triggered by different personalities.
- Ramp up prior to summer to organize your activities to slowly incorporate schedule changes.
- If things seem out of control, don’t be afraid to seek professional therapy.
Regardless of the personal situations that you’re going through, therapy, especially talk therapy, is a useful way to talk to process your feelings and why they’re occurring. SAD may be affecting you or the people close to you in these upcoming months as the weather gets warmer. Regardless of the time of year, make sure to check up on the people close to you.
Connecting with someone during a difficult time can make an extreme difference. Even if you’re not going through a difficult time, having a therapist to talk to can be rewarding to your mental health. Most importantly, always ensure that you’re checking up on yourself regardless of the month on your calendar. It may only be Mental Health Awareness Month for a fraction of the year, but it’s crucial to learn about the importance of mental health in order to properly care for yourself and the ones around you.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.