Summer is a time of year typically associated with positive things like vacations, cookouts and warm weather. However, some people’s mental health begins to suffer in the summer – a condition known as seasonal affective disorder, or major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern. If you dread summer’s arrival, SAD could be to blame.
What Causes Summer Depression?
Many cases of seasonal affective disorder happen in fall and winter, when there is less natural light and the cold makes people want to stay indoors. Those who experience SAD during winter tend to feel lethargic and pessimistic, with changes in their sleeping and eating patterns.
Researchers who have studied seasonal depression believe it relates to sunlight and its effects on circadian rhythm, which is the 24-hour “body clock” that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. If your circadian rhythm falls out of step, it can affect your natural production of serotonin, which influences your mood, and a hormone called melatonin, which plays a role in sleep.
While people with winter SAD struggle when there is too little sun, those living with summer seasonal depression have the opposite problem. Shorter nights can interrupt your sleep habits and make you feel tired all day. In addition to the long hours of bright sunshine disrupting your sleep cycle and playing havoc with your mood, the heat and humidity could make you feel anxious or angry.
Why Might You Feel Depressed in Summertime?
If you have previously struggled with depression, any change in your routine can cause your symptoms to recur. For example, going on vacation might be overly stressful because you have trouble living in the moment and all you can think about is the work you’ll need to catch up on when you return. Other potential triggers include the stressors of needing to find child care for children who are out of school and body-image issues exacerbated by wearing seasonally appropriate clothes like shorts.
One of the hardest parts of summer depression is when everyone around you is relaxing and having fun, but you can’t seem to enjoy yourself. If that’s the case for you, you could feel added guilt about your depressive symptoms.
How to Get Help for Summer Depression
If you experience a change in your mood that lasts two weeks or more, make an appointment with a mental health professional. They may diagnose and treat you for summer seasonal depression if you have symptoms of major depressive disorder, have had depressive episodes for at least two summers in a row and tend to feel more depressed during the summer than at any other time of year.
Sometimes, the coping mechanisms people use to manage seasonal depression aren’t healthy, and excessively engaging in them can lead to hard-to-break habits. A therapist can help you avoid falling into harmful ruts like these:
- Overeating because you’re bored
- Wasting time on video games or social media
- Spending more money than you can afford
- Binge drinking or misusing drugs
- Neglecting beneficial self-care
How to Get Help for a Co-Occurring Disorder
People with depression are also more vulnerable to developing substance use disorders. Because the two conditions eventually become inseparable, successfully treating them involves addressing them simultaneously. At Cumberland Heights, we offer a dual-diagnosis treatment program specifically designed to help our clients succeed with their recovery goals.
Our whole-person assessment considers your health history, current condition, safety and ability to engage in our programming. To learn more, request help today.