I used to hate summer. Absolutely despised it to the point that it would affect my mental health. I would jokingly call it my Tropical Depression. But summertime depression is a real thing. When we hear Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) we usually associate it with winter, right? But did you know it can be a summer thing too? No one really talks about summer depression or summer-pattern SAD.
I didn’t know summer depression could exist.
If you’ve been a reader for a while there’s a trend in my blog posts. Summer always brings with it some pretty predictable mental health struggles. A few months ago, I even write about how my anxiety is always higher in the hotter months, and even then – it didn’t click!
Last week, I wrote a newsletter that talked about why I dislike summer and so many people responded back “Me too!”. That’s when I discovered that summer depression fell under season affective disorder.
One of the biggest reasons that I dislike Summer is because it doesn’t support my sensory needs.
Often, my self-care is very sensory-based. Think about the five senses – sight, taste, smell, touch, and sound. I like being cold, but I also like having my heating pad on (and fuzzy blankets!) because the warmth comforts me. I like dreary days and rainy days and I love it when it gets dark early because darkness just makes me feel more relaxed – the world feels less busy and less loud.
I love having my windows open and the smell of fresh air, especially in autumn.
Summer is the opposite of all of that. It’s bright and sweaty and the warmth is not comforting it feels oppressive. I get anxious and agitated so much easier. I live in Oklahoma where I might go months without a rainy day and it’s so hot and bright outside.
Symptoms of Summer Depression or (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
– Low mood or depression*
– Feeling drained or exhausted
– Irritability and agitation
– Unhappiness that doesn’t have a source
– Heightened sensory sensitivity
– Higher levels of anxiety
– Intensified emotions
– Lack of motivation
– Difficulty sleeping
– Increased isolation
– Difficulty concentrating
*As always – check with your doctor. Each of these things can be caused by so many different factors. But if you’re reading this and having the lightbulb moment of “Oh my god, this is me every year and when Autumn/Winter comes around I am HAPPY and a completely different person.” It might be something to look into.
Triggers for Summer-Pattern SAD
Sensitivity to heat or propensity toward heat exhaustion. Exessive sweating. Basically, if the summer makes your body feel crappy then you’re more at risk.
Schedule changes, especially for teachers or students who are used to having more structure during the rest of the year.
Vacations and social obligations can cause extra stress. The colder months (with the exception of the holidays) can give us an easy excuse to stay home but summertime is full of BBQs, beach days, and vacations and that can feel overwhelming.
Sensory issues. Many people (Me!) have sensitivity to light, bright colors, loud noises, and summer can bring out all of these things.
Daylight patterns like longer hours of sunlight can throw off your sleeping or winding-down patterns. I really like it in the wintertime when it gets dark around 6 pm. It’s like my body immediately takes it as a sign to start relaxing and winding down for the evening.
There’s some research that shows that seasonal allergies can also play into your mood. It’s not just the fact that being allergic to grass or pollen can make you feel crummy, but it also triggers your immune system and can throw your body out of its normal rhythm.
One of the biggest aspects of Winter SAD is a lack of sunlight and Vitamin D and if summer makes you stay inside and avoid the sun/heat, it can have the same consequences!