Health & Wellness Articles

Is There Such Thing as the Summertime Blues?

Depression Doesn't Only Happen during the Winter

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Q: I've heard a lot about the "winter blues," but I actually feel really down in the summer. Is there such a thing as the summertime blues—or anything I do to help with it?

A: Although the winter blues are a common and well-known form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), there is a lesserknown summertime version of the disorder as well. It follows a similar pattern: Symptoms come on at the same time of the year (during spring and/or summer months) and usually get better when the seasons change. In contrast with winter-onset SAD, symptoms might include anxiety, trouble sleeping (insomnia), irritability, agitation, unintended weight loss, poor appetite, and increased sex drive.

These symptoms often start off relatively mildly and then get progressively worse as summer goes on before they start to clear up in the fall. Experts aren't sure exactly how seasonal changes affect mood but believe it has something to do with how changes in the length of days, temperature and humidity affect brain chemistry. It also seems likely that season-related changes in one's daily routines and activities may play a role, especially if these changes disrupt your normal work, sleep, eating and/or exercise routines—or increase stress.

But regardless of how, why, or when it happens, the best thing to do if you think you're getting depressed (or will get depressed again when the summer season hits) is to talk to your doctor about it. There's no guarantee that symptoms will get better in a few months if you just wait them out, and no reason to suffer through even just a few months of potentially life-disrupting depression if you can do something now to help minimize the effects.

In addition to getting appropriate medical help, here are a couple things you can do to help minimize the problems that summer SAD can cause:

Plan ahead. If you know that the arrival of summer is likely to mean an onset of depression, start thinking ahead of time (before you get depressed) about what kinds of problems that it's caused in the past, and what you can do to minimize those problems this time. Identify which parts of your life became especially difficult when your depression came on, and plan ahead to minimize those problems and/or get some help. For example, if it's really hard for you to manage with the kids home from school, see if you can sign them up for some daytime activity programs this summer, or ask a friend or family member if they can help with childcare, housework, meals or anything else that would take some of the stress out of the situation for you.

Keep moving. Physical activity is one of the most effective treatments for depression—and also one of the first things that people tend to stop doing when they get depressed. If that's your pattern, line up an exercise buddy ahead of time, and give them permission to do what it takes to get you up and moving even when you tell them you don't feel like it.
 
Get enough sleep. Even though the days are longer, you still need a solid eight hours of sleep, especially if you're struggling with depression. Make sure your bedroom curtains are heavy enough to block out light if that's what's keeping you awake when going to bed at a reasonable time. If nagging thoughts are making it tough to get restful ZZZs, try writing them down in a journal right before bed. That way, you'll be able to calm your mind and relax enough to fall asleep.

Learn to say "no." Even if you "always" host the entire family for a weekend-long Fourth of July celebration, it's OK to ask someone else to take over for you when you're not feeling up to it. Putting extra stress on yourself won't make your depression better. In fact, this annual stress may be triggering your depression symptoms in the first place.

Ask for help. Finally, if you haven't talked to your doctor about your summertime blues, make an appointment today. A short series of visits with a qualified therapist could be all you need to manage your seasonal depression and enjoy the summer season.

Sources
Mayo Clinic, "Seasonal Affective Disorder," www.mayoclinic.com, accessed on July 15, 2013.

WebMD, "Tips for Summer Depression," www.webmd.com, accessed on July 15, 2013.
 

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Member Comments

  • I get this. i live in pacific Northwest which means rain and fog . On a sunny day i forget to do with myself.

    Also I feel pressured because the sun dissappears to the fog anytime despite forecast.

    I try to remember to take day, hour trips to beach park etc. whes sunIS aut.

    Also I think reverse SAD is Just part of my body chemistry.
  • I have this problem EVERY summer - much less so this year bc of all the rain we've gotten. It's nice to have it validated by this article. I've narrowed it down to one of 2 things: Something about the lighting or heat outside when the sun is up, or allergies. Though I have 25 allergies - meaning allergies 10 months of the year, I believe that the allergens brought on during summer that intensify towards the end of the summer is associated with my mood. Hard to tell if it is lighting and heat or allergens, but those have been my observations. Would be interesting to see if others with the same issue also have allergies.
  • "Well there ain't no cure for the Summertime Blues...." But seriously, I've been a little down this year, mostly due to some less than pleasant things happening in my life. I remember as a child/teen getting pretty bored by Aug 1, and ready for school to start again. Then as an adult, summer was a reminder that I'm NOT a kid anymore - no summertime breaks, and that's kind of a bummer. I don't know if that's SAD or normal, but it's something to think about.
  • I don't get the blues but summer is definitely my least favorite season. I live in a tourist town (San Diego) and though it's beautiful here (believe me, I'm not complaining), summer is really crowded. I also hate being hot and don't really like the beach. I can't wait for fall!
  • Great article. But I been great this summer even with the pain in my hip.
  • I always thought it was just a song by the WHO.
  • I have struggled with depression, mostly in summer months, so this article is very helpful. Thank you, SP! :)
  • Thanks for this article. I've been having summer-time blues. Of course, trying to deal with the heat and humidity doesn't help.
  • Thank you for this article. I actually just wrote in my journal yesterday about feeling so depressed this summer. Now that I look back I see it has been a bit of a pattern. I think a big part of it, at least for me, is the expectations that come with summer; similar to why people may get so depressed around the holidays. Summer is party and vacation time! We're all supposed to be having so much fun, getting away, taking a break from life. When you are not able to do that, it feels as if all of the world around you is living a life you are not. Add to that any changes in your daily routines you may need to make to accommodate school or work schedules and it can really through you off. I found making sure I am doing some "summer things" even if I can't take a nice vacation helps a bit. Making sure I am getting to the town pool to swim; taking a day trip to the beach to get my toes in the sand; eating breakfast, or doing some of my computer work, out on the deck can all make me feel I am experiencing at least a part of the season.

About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

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