Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as summer depression, is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. It typically begins and ends at about the same times every year. While most people with SAD experience symptoms in the fall and winter months, there’s also a lesser-known form of this condition, known as summer-onset SAD or reverse SAD, that occurs during the warmer months. Symptoms of summer-onset SAD can include trouble sleeping, poor appetite, weight loss, and agitation or anxiety.

This seasonal condition is believed to be related to the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which regulates sleep, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Changes in daylight exposure can affect the balance of these substances, leading to mood changes. During the summer, longer daylight hours and increased heat and humidity can disrupt the body’s balance of melatonin and serotonin, potentially triggering summer-onset SAD.

Therapy, and specifically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can be incredibly effective in managing seasonal depression. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that can help individuals understand their thoughts and feelings that influence their behaviors. The purpose of CBT is to identify negative or false beliefs and test or restructure them. Oftentimes, people with SAD may start to dread the change of seasons in anticipation of feeling depressed. CBT can help them change these negative thought patterns and reduce feelings of distress.

Summer Depression

ShiftGrit Psychology & Counselling - summer depression

In relation to CBT, Reconditioning via Exposure & Integration (REI) can further enhance the therapeutic process. This approach utilizes repeated exposure to a feared situation, object, or context in a safe environment to gradually reduce fear and anxiety. By directly confronting the source of the distress, the individual can progressively unlearn their fear response, reducing the impact of the stressor on their mood and daily functioning. In the case of summer-onset SAD, this could involve gradually increasing exposure to daylight and warm environments, and integrating positive coping strategies during these exposures. By doing so, it can help alter the body’s physiological response and associated negative beliefs, therefore reducing the severity of the symptoms.

Understanding the cause and acknowledging its presence is the first step towards managing summer depression. Here are five tips to help prevent or mitigate its effects:

  • Maintain a Routine: Disruption of our usual routines can trigger feelings of disarray and stress. During summer, try to maintain a regular schedule. This includes waking up, eating meals, exercising, and going to bed at consistent times. A routine provides a sense of control and structure that can help anchor us when we feel adrift.
  • Stay Cool: For some, the heat and brightness of summer are triggers. Make an effort to stay cool by using air conditioning, fans, or simply taking cool showers. Dress in lightweight, breathable clothing. Limit outdoor activities to cooler times of the day, such as early morning or late evening.
  • Exercise Regularly: Physical activity is known to boost mood by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body’s natural ‘feel good’ chemicals. Even moderate exercise like a daily walk can have significant benefits. Exercising indoors or during the cooler parts of the day can help make this more feasible during summer.
  • Mind Your Diet: Hot weather can sometimes reduce our appetite, leading us to skip meals or eat unhealthy foods for convenience. However, a balanced diet is crucial for maintaining our physical and mental health. Try to consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Staying hydrated is also crucial during the summer months.
  • Seek Professional Help: If your depression becomes unmanageable, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapists or counsellors can provide strategies and techniques to cope with seasonal depression. If necessary, they may also recommend medication.

Remember, it’s perfectly okay to not feel the “summer joy” that everyone else seems to be experiencing. Each individual’s response to different seasons can vary greatly. It’s important to listen to your own feelings, acknowledge them, and take appropriate action. Summer depression is a real and valid condition, but with these tips and possible professional help, it can be effectively managed.

How Shift Can Help

ShiftGrit Depression Therapy

Summer Depression

ShiftGrit Psychology & Counselling can help. We use a unique protocol combining Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)  using Reconditioning via Exposure & Integration (REI) (more commonly referred to as Reprocessing) to help you figure out new ways to get happy and start enjoying your life.