By Dr. David Woo - July 10, 2023
For many people, summer comes with the promise of vacations, travel, family reunions, or relaxation. However, not everyone experiences these emotions when the season comes around. In fact, taking care of our mental health in the summer is just as important as any other time of year.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Or Seasonal Depression?
Although more commonly associated with the winter months, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can also affect our mental health in the summer. SAD is classified as a type of depression, sometimes called seasonal depression or the holiday blues, and it affects around 5% of the US population in any given year (1). Seasonal depression is real, and so is summer seasonal depression, with the National Institute of Mental Health noting specific symptoms for summer-pattern seasonal affective disorder, which people experience in spring or early summer (2).
What Are The Symptoms Of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD symptoms will regularly manifest during certain times of the year for around three to four months. As well as typical symptoms of depression, there are specific symptoms associated with summer-pattern SAD, which include:
- Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- Loss of appetite, possibly leading to weight loss
- Feeling restless and agitated
- Increased irritability and even episodes of violent thoughts or behavior
- Co-occurring symptoms of anxiety with depression, called anxious depression
Travel And Post-Vacation Depression
In addition to SAD, people might experience post-vacation depression during the summer, especially if they were already in a high-stress work environment (3). In this case, it could be helpful to ‘buffer’ the return to work or studies with an extra day or to ease into the transition.
Anxiety In The Summer Season
It’s not only depression that can affect our mood in the summertime. People with anxiety can also experience more severe symptoms during the summer due to the warm temperatures increasing their heart rate or the production of stress hormones, as well as pressure related to planning the perfect vacation or exposing one’s body.
Tips For Coping With SAD In The Summer
There are many reasons we might feel depressed, anxious, or irritated during the summer. Schedule changes may disrupt our routine, financial worries might surface related to vacation spending or planning, or we may compare ourselves unfavorably to others, whether they appear to be going on more glamorous vacations or having the perfect “beach body.” It’s important to recognize our summertime triggers and take steps to minimize our exposure to them or mentally prepare ourselves to face them.
Some techniques for overcoming typical triggers for SAD include:
- Avoid spending too much time on electronic devices before bed, as these can disrupt the production of melatonin (a.k.a., the sleep hormone) and reduce sleep quality (4)
- Plan and stick to a routine
- Make space, even as little as ten minutes per day, for quiet time and or enjoyable self-care activities that boost your mood
- Take an extended break from social media, or limit yourself to thirty minutes per day, especially if it triggers body image issues
- Practice positive body image self-talk
- Stay in the shade or use an air conditioner if the heat makes you irritable or disrupts sleep
Sometimes simple self-care can help overcome the summertime blues, but if symptoms persist, it is recommended to seek medical treatment.
Treatment For Seasonal Depression And Anxiety
Whether you are experiencing depression in the winter or summer months, it is vital to seek help, as effective treatments are available to help you find relief from your symptoms. Like standard depression, SAD is usually treated with talk therapy or antidepressant medications. When antidepressants don’t seem to help, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an FDA-approved depression treatment that has also been shown to help relieve the symptoms of SAD.
If you have trouble shaking the summertime sadness or struggle with a low mood at any time of the year, TMS may help you find relief. It’s crucial never to be ashamed of our depression symptoms but to reach out to our support networks and seek professional help as soon as possible. Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry provides talk therapy and TMS for treating depression, anxiety, and other conditions. Contact us online or call (212) 731-2033 to make an appointment for consultation or treatment.
- Cotterell, D. Pathogenesis and management of seasonal affective disorder. Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry. 2010;14(5), 18-25. https://doi.org/10.1002/pnp.173. Accessed June 15, 2023.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder. National Institute Of Mental Health. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Publication Date Unknown. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder. Accessed June 15, 2023.
- Bretones, F. D. Facing the post-holiday blues. Safety Management. 2017. https://digibug.ugr.es/bitstream/handle/10481/62632/Facing%20the%20post-holiday%20blues%20AUTHOR.pdf?sequence=1. Accessed June 15, 2023.
- Perrault, A, and others. Reducing the use of screen electronic devices in the evening is associated with improved sleep and daytime vigilance in adolescents. Sleep. 2019;42, 9. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsz125. Accessed June 15, 2023.