Seasonal depression is often associated with winter, but seasonal depression can also occur during the summer months as well.
While it’s most commonly referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), its official name is major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern. Both men and women can experience SAD, but it’s more common in women, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Seasonal depression in the summertime may seem counterintuitive as the vitamin D we receive from sunshine can boost our mood. However, Austin-based Glory Cassagnol, who has a masters in critical mental health counseling, says this sunshine season can sometimes be the cause of summer seasonal depression. She specifically notices an uptick in client requests shortly following Memorial Day weekend.
“(Summer) normally brings people happiness,” Cassagnol says. “But with SAD it does the opposite.”
This can be for a variety of reasons including societal pressures surrounding body image, issues with sleeping, lack of routine or even something traumatic.
As temperature increases, the layers decrease. Cassagnol says this can also be accompanied by an increase in dieting.
“People can feel embarrassed in shorts (and) a bathing suit,” Cassagnol says. “(So, they’re) covering up in more clothes and increasing chances of overheating.”
Cassagnol also says some people may avoid social events altogether, preferring to stay inside and begin self-isolating.
“They stay in to avoid embarrassment,” Cassagnol says. “When you are self-isolating, you are just waiting for the depressive symptoms to come right on in.”
Your sleep schedule can be interrupted for many reasons, but in the summer, your circadian rhythm, or the natural cycle of awake and sleep your body does, can get off its normal routine.
While winter seasonal depression often deals with not enough sun, Cassagnol says summer seasonal depression deals with the exact opposite — too much sun can turn off your melatonin production.
It can also be tempting to stay up all night for events like the Fourth of July and, while it’s good to stay social, be sure to pay attention to how often you stay up late.
“It goes the same way with your mental health,” Cassagnol says. “Get your rest and make a concerning effort to get to bed on time.”
One of the biggest challenge people face in the summertime is the potentially drastic changes to their routine. Whether the kids are out of school, vacations are planned or it’s too hot to do your normal exercises, Cassagnol says changes made to routines can have long-lasting negative consequences.
“Having a reliable routine helps relieve (depressive) symptoms,” Cassagnol says.
For students, especially, classes can provide a rigid schedule and our bodies naturally acclimate to daily tasks. So, when the support and rigidity is gone, it’s best to be prepared.
Knowing ahead of time that the kids will participate in a summer camp or that great-grandma wants a family reunion over a specific weekend can help you make those plans. When it comes to maintaining your fitness routine, if it’s too hot to do exercises outside, there are other options available. Cassagnol says to consider going outside earlier or later in the day when it’s cooler weather, reaching out to an indoor gym about a short-term membership or looking on YouTube for exercise videos.
Do you associate sadness with summer? Cassagnol also suggests reflecting on if anything traumatic happened at a specific point in the summer. Sometimes just the association can cause the season or month to feel like a permanent low month.
“People may not realize there is a core reason,” Cassagnol says. “Without even realizing it, you can associate summer with sadness, and it can grow stronger and stronger.”
While winter seasonal depression has more research and time dedicated to understanding it, summer seasonal depression is just as important to be educated about. Cassagnol recommends leaning on your support system if you’re experiencing these symptoms or reaching out to a therapist.