Living with Summer Depression: ‘Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder’

summer sky shadow over woman

When people talk about seasonal depression, we usually think of the “wintertime blues.” But there are those who live with a rarer form of Seasonal Affective Disorder known as “summer SAD.”

What was previously known as Seasonal Affective Disorder is now under the criteria for Major Depressive Disorder with a specifier for a seasonal pattern. Referred to as “wintertime blues,” those living with seasonal depression report episodes of fatigue, depressed or sad mood, and a host of other symptoms. For most, this occurs when the days are shorter, darker and cooler, usually during the fall and winter months.

What is less common — yet still valid — is summer SAD. Much like it’s wintertime counterpart, summer depression leaves those living with the condition feeling fatigued, hopeless, and lethargic. The difference is it has this effect during months when people are expected to be bright, happy, and excited. This can be frustrating for those with summer sadness. The pressure to seem well can exacerbate the depressive symptoms they may be experiencing.

The expectation to be out enjoying the longer and warmer days can be crushing for some. While there may be an internal desire to take part in vacations and family time, those living with summertime sadness may find themselves unable to push through their symptoms and feel genuine joy during these months. This can make them feel like a failure.

Typically, the symptoms they experience will resolve at the end of the summer, which is relieving for those living with summertime depression. Nonetheless, this often means many people try to power through the summer months for the sake of others, while feeling depressed on a day-to-day basis.

Those living with summer seasonal depression shouldn’t wait for summer to end to get help. Therapy can help you find ways to manage your symptoms and have a much better experience during the warmer months. In fact, therapy, medication, or both might be the key to limiting the often very disruptive impact of depression on your social, work, and family life.

What factors may be contributing to summertime seasonal depression to begin with?

Increased Expectations

We often think of summer as a time in which we spend most of our days out and about, enjoying our respective cities and taking time to bask in the sun’s rays. For those living with summer depression, it can be hard to meet these expectations.

Also, many people spend their free time at beaches during summer. This often means more revealing clothing, due to the hotter temperatures. Concerns about body image are exacerbated for everyone, no doubt. Those living with seasonal depression may feel that burden more severely, however.

Coping with the Weather Itself

Research indicates that those living with mental health conditions are predisposed to weather sensitivity. This can lead to an exacerbation of symptoms. With extreme summer temperatures and humidity, weather changes can be limiting for those with summer seasonal depression. The weather may be so draining and burdensome that the depression seems even more difficult to push through. Combined with an increased possibility for dehydration, it can be very difficult to thrive in the summer months if you have seasonal depression.

Financial and Familial Challenges

With increased expectations for social togetherness, the warmer months may also mean that those living with summer seasonal depression struggle with increased familial or financial challenges. In these months, there is often pressure to go on vacation, which can be stressful in and of itself. In addition, the increased financial burden of trip costs and time off may be a contributing factor to the depression.

Summertime means spending much more time with family, especially for those who have school-aged children. This may mean a lot more day-to-day stress with regards to caring for and entertaining children. That’s not to mention the pressure with helping them keep up so they will be ready for the upcoming school year. Childcare costs may skyrocket due to the need for adequate supervision on those long summer days off or summer activities to keep children active and engaged like sleepaway or day camp.

Living with summer depression can be difficult. It may be limited to a few months out of the year (in certain areas), but that doesn’t mean waiting it out is the best answer.

For those living with seasonal depression, seeking the help of a therapist to manage symptoms now might make the difference between dealing with immediate consequences or long-term implications. Going to therapy isn’t how most of us want to spend our free time during the summer, but it can be the difference between summertime sadness and summertime peace.

Published by

Jor-El Caraballo

Talkspace Therapist