5 Signs you might have summer depression (and how to feel better)

Did you know that around 10% of people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) experience symptoms during the warmer months [1]? 

While SAD is often associated with winter gloom, summer depression, a lesser-known variant, can also occur. 

That’s right—summer depression, though less common, is a real and serious condition that affects many people.

What is summer depression?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression linked to changes in seasons. While most people experience SAD in the fall and winter, some suffer from it during spring and summer. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), summer-pattern SAD includes symptoms like trouble sleeping, poor appetite, weight loss, agitation, and anxiety​ [2]. 

Understanding the signs can help you address them early and reclaim your sunny days. Here are five signs you might have summer depression and tips on how to feel better [3].

1. Persistent sadness and low mood

Just like winter SAD, summer depression can cause a pervasive low mood that lasts for weeks. You might find yourself feeling inexplicably down despite the beautiful weather. 

This persistent sadness can interfere with daily activities and overall enjoyment of life. If you notice a pattern of low mood during the summer months, it could be a sign of summer depression.

How to feel better

Exercise regularly because it releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Try incorporating activities you enjoy, such as swimming, hiking, or a simple park walk. 

Regular exercise can help relieve depressive symptoms by improving physical and mental well-being.

2. Anxiety and restlessness

Summer depression often manifests as heightened anxiety and restlessness. You might feel constantly on edge, unable to relax, and overwhelmed by the heat and social expectations. This can lead to irritability and difficulty focusing on tasks.

How to feel better

Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, to calm your mind, reduce anxiety, and cope better with summer stresses.

3. Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)

Trouble sleeping is a common symptom of summer depression. The longer daylight hours can disrupt your natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to insomnia. 

This lack of restful sleep can exacerbate feelings of fatigue and low energy, creating a vicious cycle that’s hard to break.

How to feel better

Establish a consistent sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Use blackout curtains to keep your bedroom dark and cool or sleep headphones to block noise.

Avoid screens and stimulants like caffeine before bedtime to help improve the quality of your sleep.

4. Reduced appetite and weight loss

Unlike winter SAD, which often involves increased appetite and weight gain, summer depression can cause a significant reduction in appetite. 

You might unintentionally eat less and lose weight, which can further impact your energy levels and overall health.

How to feel better

Maintain a balanced diet. Even if you don’t feel like eating, consume small, nutritious meals throughout the day. 

Focus on hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables, which can help keep you nourished and hydrated in the heat.

5. Social withdrawal

Isolation is another key indicator of summer depression. You might avoid social interactions and feel disconnected from friends and family. 

The pressure to participate in summer activities can feel overwhelming, leading to further withdrawal and loneliness.

How to feel better

Stay connected with loved ones. Reach out to friends and family for a quick chat or virtual hangout. 

Social support is crucial for mental health. Engaging in social activities, even if they’re low-key, can help combat feelings of isolation.

More tips to cope with summer depression

Apart from the targeted tips for each symptom, here are some general strategies to help you manage summer depression:

1. Seek professional help

If your symptoms are severe or persistent, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in treating winter and summer-pattern SAD. A therapist can help you develop coping strategies and address negative thought patterns.

2. Plan ahead

Identify potential stressors associated with summer and plan accordingly. Proactive planning can reduce anxiety and make the season more manageable, whether it’s budgeting for vacations, organizing childcare, or setting realistic expectations for social activities.

3. Stay hydrated

Dehydration can worsen depression and fatigue symptoms. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you’re outdoors.

4. Light therapy

While more commonly used for winter-pattern SAD, light therapy can help regulate your sleep cycle during the summer. Consult with a healthcare provider to see if this might be a suitable option for you [2].

5. Limit alcohol and caffeine

When taken close to bedtime, alcohol and caffeine can disrupt sleep and exacerbate anxiety. So, limit your intake of these substances, particularly in the afternoon and evening.

Summer depression is a real and challenging condition, but with the right strategies and support, it is manageable. You can enjoy a happier and healthier summer by recognizing the signs and taking proactive steps to care for your mental health.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, it’s important to seek professional help. 

You can find Help for Mental Illnesses through the NIMH or contact SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline

Taking the step to seek professional help can make a significant difference in managing and overcoming summer depression.

[1] https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/seasonal-affective-disorder/
[2] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder
[3] https://www.camh.ca/en/camh-news-and-stories/summer-depression

Photograph: astrakanimages/Envato
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