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Why Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Can Occur in Summer and 4 Coping Techniques for Managing Symptoms

Summertime Seasonal Depression - Compass Health Center

Summertime Seasonal Depression 

The arrival of summer is often a happy time filled with excitement, relaxation, and anticipation. However, the change from winter to spring to summer can trigger summertime seasonal depression in some people. It is estimated that three to five percent of the population experiences Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). While the number of individuals impacted is lower in the summer, experts have identified risk factors that increase the possibility of development of Summertime SAD, such as a family history of depression and living further from the equator due to longer days. It is now being identified and diagnosed on a greater scale, allowing people to get the help they may need.  

…people on school year schedules (both students and teachers) may be more susceptible to depression during the summer months.

Joseph Serio, LCPC, Chief Clinical Officer, Compass Health Center—Northbrook

“While any number of people may suffer from summertime depression, studies show that females are more susceptible to cyclical patterns in mood as opposed to men and, people on school year schedules (both students and teachers) may be more susceptible to depression during the summer months,” Joseph Serio, LCPC, Chief Clinical Officer, Compass Health Center—Northbrook, said.  “A significant body of research demonstrates the value of being active and remaining socially connected in combating clinical depression.  For those out of school for the summer, these activities may dramatically decrease, leaving them susceptible to an increase in depressive symptoms.”

What are the Causes of SAD in the Summer?

There are several triggers that could bring on summertime seasonal depression. These include disruption in sleep-wake cycles due to longer days and shorter nights, temperature, and humidity changes, and even allergens. For school-age children and adolescents, a lack of daily structure during the summer months can increase stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)6 by the American Psychiatric Association specifies that depression with a seasonal pattern must include having depression that begins and ends during a specific season every year (with full remittance during other seasons) for at least two years and having more seasons with than without depression over a lifetime. It is important to remember that summertime seasonal depression is not the same thing as feeling down or having the blues. That is a significant distinction that must be recognized.

“Everyone gets sad sometimes. It is a normal aspect of being human,” Serio said. “The difference between sadness and depression is that depression persists for weeks on end and, as a result, interferes with our ability to do the things in life we need and want to do.”

The difference between sadness and depression is that depression persists for weeks on end and, as a result, interferes with our ability to do the things in life we need and want to do.

Joseph Serio, LCPC, Chief Clinical Officer, Compass Health Center—Northbrook

4 Coping Techniques for Summertime Seasonal Depression:

As with other mental health conditions, there are effective and evidence-based coping techniques for summertime seasonal depression. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, getting professional help may be necessary. Coping skills that people can practice outside of treatment or in conjunction with it include:

  1. Establish a sleep routine and stick to it. Since sleep is a big factor in the onset of SSD, it is a great idea to stick to a pattern of sleep that ensures proper rest.
  2. Engage in self-care activities such as exercise, walking, or reading. Taking time for this helps to navigate through low mood periods.
  3. Adults and school-aged children should take a break from social media. Kids especially need time to disconnect from the onslaught of social media scrolling. Limiting screen time at least 1 hour before bedtime has been shown to improve sleep patterns.
  4. Pay attention to nutrition. Maintaining a healthy diet is a good coping technique in that when wholesome foods are consumed, the body reacts better.
4 Coping Techniques  - Compass Health center

When to Get Help

Although coping techniques may help alleviate symptoms, it is important to recognize when to get professional treatment. This is also advised for other mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety disorders. Professional help provides the tools and support needed to get through difficult times and crises. Suicidal thoughts, inability to function at home, work, or camp, too much or too little sleep, and a disinterest in activities previously enjoyed are signs that professional help should be sought immediately. These symptoms should not be taken lightly or pushed aside.

The treatment team at Compass Health Center and Compass Virtual have identified the need for mental health programs that specifically target summertime seasonal depression. Additionally, Compass has launched a child and adolescent Creative Arts Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for the summer months. The forward-thinking, evidence-based program is designed to provide a nurturing environment for children and teens to communicate experiences creatively while learning skills to reduce symptoms. The program is available in person at Compass’s Northbrook, Oak Brook, and Chicago locations, as well as online through Compass Virtual.

SAD Treatment  - Compass Health center
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