The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the weather is warm, but despite that, you’re feeling sad, irritable, or depressed. While this might seem unusual or even counter to how most people view depression, research increasingly shows that, for some individuals, summer can actually have a negative impact on mood, even causing depression.
In this article we’ll detail the symptoms and some of the possible causes for summer depression.
Symptoms of Summer Depression
For most individuals, the signs of summer depression are similar to those for other forms of depression:
- Restlessness and agitation
- Heightened stress or anxiety
- Unexplained weight loss
- Insomnia or disrupted sleep
- Loss of appetite
Generally, irritability, restlessness, agitation, and trouble sleeping are the most common signs of summer depression. However, other symptoms do occur, including common depressive symptoms like sadness and hopelessness.
For most people who suffer from summer depression, symptoms will often start in late spring months or the early summer before beginning to subside by the start of fall.
While the above symptoms are common signs of depression, they can also indicate other, equally serious medical disorders. If you begin to suffer from these symptoms, speak with your doctor. They’ll want to learn more about your symptoms to rule out other medical conditions.
Learn more about Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
What Causes Summer Depression?
Summertime depression can have a number of causes. We’ll outline some of the most frequent below.
Seasonal Affective Disorder or MDD With Seasonal Pattern
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, and major depressive disorder (MDD) with seasonal pattern affect millions of Americans. Most research indicates that individuals with SAD or seasonal pattern MDD are most affected in the fall and winter months. This research suggests decreased sun exposure and longer nights are largely to blame for increased depression during this half of the year.
However, a subset of individuals with SAD, fewer than ten percent it’s estimated, suffer from summer SAD, or reverse seasonal depressive disorder. For these individuals, symptoms of SAD occur during the spring and summer months, with a stronger emphasis on irritability and agitation than other common SAD symptoms.
Issues With Body Image
The summer months usually mean more time at the beach or pool. While this is usually an enjoyable experience, for some people body image concerns can add to stress, anxiety, and depression. Body image issues are a common concern for many people. In fact, around 91% of women report being unhappy with their bodies. For many people, it’s easy to feel self-conscious about their bodies during pool or beach gatherings, and this can compound with other mental health disorders, making them all the more prevalent during the summer.
There are many summertime costs that can quickly add up and cause a financial strain for families and individuals. Expenses for vacations, summer camp or childcare, trips and holiday celebrations can become a major burden.
When financial strain places an added burden on us, it’s common to feel stressed, which can lead to or increase already existing anxiety and depression. When coupled with other risk factors, summertime financial stress can lead to anxiety or depression.
Disruption to Routines
Summertime can become stressful when it causes disruptions to our normal routine. This is especially true for parents who have school-age children they have to find care for and plan activities for. Additionally, summer is prime time for family vacations and other larger activities. While these times can be relaxing, their planning, preparation, and scheduling can cause major stress. When coupled with financial worries, a disrupted schedule can take a toll on our mental health, and is potentially one cause for summer depression.
Too Much Sun and Heat
While SAD is believed to be most often caused by too little sunlight, it’s believed that too much sunshine can cause its own share of problems. For example, too much sunlight can reduce your body’s natural melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally within your body to regulate your sleep-wake cycles. When the days get longer, your body has less time to produce melatonin. The sun also can disrupt your circadian rhythm.
Combined, this can wreak havoc on some people’s sleep patterns, throwing them off entirely. Loss of sleep, insomnia, and the subsequent exhaustion can lead to suppressed mood and depression, especially if prolonged.
Summer heat can also become a major problem for some individuals. For some people, the heat can be unbearable, especially those sensitive to high temperatures, in turn, forcing them to spend more time indoors, or to feel uncomfortable while subject to the heat of the summer sun. Being stuck inside and feeling left out or isolated can lead to agitation, irritability, and sadness.
Who Is Most At Risk of Summer Depression?
Seasonal affective disorder is diagnosed more often in women than in men. And SAD occurs more frequently in younger adults than in older adults.
Factors that may increase your risk of seasonal affective disorder include:
- Family history of SAD or MDD: individuals who have relatives who suffer from major depression or SAD are themselves more likely to suffer from these conditions. Researchers are still unsure as to what role genetics play, but believe that brain structure and chemistry are likely to be a significant factor.
- Having major depression or bipolar disorder: Symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.
- Living closer to the equator: One study has shown that individuals who live in hotter areas closer to the equator have a higher prevalence of MDD with summer seasonal pattern than those who live in cooler temperatures, further from the equator. However, for individuals who suffer from fall/winter SAD, the opposite is true: the prevalence tends to be higher further from the equator.
Get Help For Summer Depression
Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare’s clinicians and therapists understand how depression can impact someone’s life at any time. If you or someone you love is suffering from increased depression or anxiety during summer, our team of mental health experts is ready. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options for depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.