Seasonal teen depression during the summer may sound oxymoronic, after all, isn’t seasonal depression more common during the winter and shouldn’t teenagers be happy they are officially out of school for the summer? Teens with depression face a real challenge during summer, especially when their school environment is positive or neutral. Seasonal depression, although more common in the winter, also occurs in the summer and many experts believe this is related to changes in schedule and the sleep-wake cycles with the longer days and shorter night and maybe even hot, humid temperatures. Specific symptoms of summer depression often include loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, weight loss, and anxiety.
Teens with depression require structure and schedules to keep their minds and their bodies focused and occupied. During the summer all of the structure and scheduling goes out the window, leaving most teenagers with too much free time which allows their minds to wander. Summer also comes with isolation and school provides teenagers with opportunities to remain connected with others building relationships and friendships. These relationships help combat depression. Many times teens with depression have a desire to isolate because it feels safer and easier. The problem with this approach is that it makes the situation worse- spending too much time alone may lead someone with depression to focus on their perceived defects. When school ends and summer starts, this allows teens to withdrawal from being around their classmates and friends on a daily basis. Isolation is common during the summer, which can potentially lead to increased suicidal thoughts and unhealthy behaviors. Other factors that contribute to seasonal teen depression include the following:
Lack of daily physical activity
Lack of academic challenges
Lack of stimulation
Too much free time
Tips for living with seasonal teen depression in the summer
Enroll your teenager is summer school so he/she can stay motivated, stay focused and have a schedule
Enroll your teenager is some sort of outdoor camp as spending time outdoors has been known to improve mood
Encourage your teenager to become involved in a summer volunteer program whether it is volunteering at an animal shelter, a library or helping pick up trash; volunteering is a way to stay on schedule, socialize and have a purpose for something greater.
Encourage your teenager to get involved in the community whether it is a church, a local theatre group, a sport or some sort of community hobby as this combats loneliness, which helps with depression.
Encourage your teenager to land a summer job. A part-time job can encourage your teenager to learn how to manage money, stay focused, stick to a schedule, develop a work ethic and meet new friends.
Stay in therapy and continue with any medications to prevent any lapses in the mood.
Spend quality time with your teenager by taking vacations, maximizing your days off and enjoying the summer together. Positive time spent with role models can help with mood and anxiety and build up self-esteem.
Keep your teen on the same sleep and wake cycle as you do during the school year as disrupting a sleep cycle can worsen depression.