If you’re feeling the summertime blues, you’re not alone.
We’re all familiar with the winter blues; it’s easy to get down when the days turn shorter and temperatures start to drop. Known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), feeling depression in the winter months is a common occurrence. Did you know, however, that some people experience the opposite and end up feeling depressed in the summer?
It’s true. Reverse seasonal affective disorder (feeling depressed during the summer months) affects a small portion of the people who experience SAD. And while only about 10% of the people who experience winter SAD also face summertime SAD, the effects are very similar.
Summertime’s supposed to be about feeling great and having a good time, but for those with reverse seasonal affective disorder, summer can feel like a real setback.
Understanding Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder
Summer doesn’t always bring on the bliss everyone seems to wait for nine months out of the year. In fact, it can be just a depressing as the winter months for those who experience reverse seasonal affective disorder.
Why exactly are some people feeling summertime sadness? Aren’t the days of summer supposed to be the most enjoyable? Not for everyone. Following are a few reasons why.
6 Reasons People Get the Summertime Blues
- Too Much Sunlight
One of the remedies for SAD is increased sunlight, but for people with reverse seasonal affective disorder, too much sunlight can actually make them feel worse. Too much sun can lead to variations in melatonin production, which can make emotions go haywire.
Another concern amongst people who experience seasonal affective disorder in the summer is that staying up later can cause serious disruptions in a normal sleep schedule. This can throw off one’s circadian rhythm, which is vital for controlling one’s sleep/wake cycle. Disruptions in our sleep cycles can cause serious emotional issues and quickly lead to anxiety and depression.
- Busy Summer Schedules
People with depression rely on a regular schedule to stave off their symptoms. In the summertime, our normal schedules can get thrown for a loop, and our regular routines are often replaced with a thousand other things to do. This disturbance of a regular routine can seriously affect someone who is already prone to depression.
For those who have children still in school, summertime can bring on an abundance of extra responsibility, which can quickly result in anxiety or depression. From keeping them occupied all day to taking them to a variety of different summer activities, taking care of kids in the summer makes parents shoulder a lot more than they do during the school year.
Summertime also offers a lot more social activities, and for some, this is all part of the fun. For others, however, keeping up with all these extra things to do and places to be can be extremely overwhelming.
- The Heat
Not everyone is a summertime sun-worshipper. While there’s no doubt that it’s sometimes hard to find a place to lay your blanket down on the beach, not everyone is so inclined to spend all day in the sweltering sun. The heat of summer can become super overbearing for some people.
Heat and humidity can be exhausting, which, in turn, can lead to decreased energy levels and a lack of ambition. Skipping out on exercise because of the heat can take a real toll on your emotions, as can poor eating habits because you’re just too tired (or too hot) to cook.
Not everyone wants to bounce around on the beach during the summer months. For those who don’t and prefer to stay inside with the AC blasting, it can make them feel like they’re missing out on all the fun (or that there’s something wrong with them), and that can increase the summertime blues.
- The Season You Were Born
It turns out that the season in which someone was born and raised might just have something to do with experiencing seasonal depression in the summer too. A study conducted by Vanderbilt University showed that mice raised in the summer months (experiencing 16 hour of light and 8 hours of darkness) showed higher activity in serotonin levels compared with those who were raised in winter conditions (16 hours of dark and 8 of light).
Serotonin is the neurotransmitter in the brain that helps regulate mood. Higher levels of serotonin make one feel happier while lower levels tend to decrease mood and lead to depression. The higher activity of serotonin in the people raised in the months of summer (think the first 3-6 months of a person’s life) act as a sort of antidepressant while those raised in winter months don’t always contain the levels of serotonin necessary to beat the blues.
- Financial Concerns
Summertime can put a serious strain on someone’s wallet. There are vacations, parties, and more opportunities to go out for drinks and dinner – not to mention daycare expenses and summer camps for working parents. Extra expenses can lead to a serious case of financial anxiety and concern, which can easily turn into depression.
- Body Image Issues
Summer is the perfect time to feel pressure for having the “perfect” body. As temperatures rise, and layers of clothes begin to be shed, many people are left feeling extremely self-conscious about the way they look.
Warmer weather means a whole different wardrobe, and for those who already feel insecure about their bodies (which is more than half of the general population), wearing less often means feeling worse. Feeling uncomfortable about the way you look or embarrassed to put on a bathing suit can reduce self-esteem, and many people avoid outdoor social situations altogether.
Symptoms of Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder
Reverse seasonal affective disorder works in the opposite way of regular seasonal affective disorder. People who experience summertime sadness usually notice symptoms beginning in the spring or early summer that get progressively worse as the summer wears on. Symptoms of reverse seasonal affective disorder include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Low energy
- Irritability and anxiety
- Weight loss
- Low appetite
Tips to Help Manage Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder
You don’t have to skip out on the whole summer if you’re affected by reverse seasonal affective disorder. Knowing how to manage the reasons you’re feeling sad in the first place may help you better cope with the way you feel and allow you to enjoy summer just like everyone else.
- Don’t Skip on Sleep
It’s easy to stay up late and get up early during the summer months. Sticking to your normal sleep schedule, however, can make all the difference in the world. When we don’t get enough sleep, it’s easy to become depressed. Be sure to get enough sleep, and, if at all possible, slip a nap in here and there.
- Be Sure to Exercise Regularly
Heat can zap your energy like nothing else, making exercise feel like the last thing you want to do. Getting regular exercise, however, is vital to feeling good. Doing your exercise routine earlier in the day or later in the evening when it’s cooler can help, and you might want to think about switching up your exercises to fit the summer months. Swimming is a great exercise and an awesome way to stay cool when all you want to do is sit in an air-conditioned room.
- Don’t Overextend Yourself
Summertime can certainly make us shoulder more than our fair share of responsibilities but learning when to say no is fundamental to feeling good. You don’t have to host the family reunion, and you don’t have to cater this year’s 4th of July picnic. Pick and choose what you have the time (and energy) to do without overextending yourself. You don’t need to feel depressed because you have too much to do.
- Seek Support
Talking to someone about the way you feel is sometimes the best way to get things off your mind and make you feel better. Seek support from friends, family, or a counselor you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with. Even if your depression is temporary, it can still wreak havoc on your life. Talking it out can make you not only feel better but also understand why you’re feeling the way you are.
Are you someone who tends to get the summertime blues? Do you think you might be experiencing reverse seasonal affective disorder, or have you dealt with it in the past? We’d love to hear your feelings in the comments below!