When I think of summer, some thoughts that come to mind include sun, cookouts, the beach, vacation, and spending time with family and friends. These thoughts create positive feelings for me, and they are things I look forward to. Though summer is often described as “fun in the sun,” the season can pose difficulties for some who experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD, also known as seasonal depression) during the summer months. Even if seasonal depression is not something that you’ve had in the past, this year, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, feelings of depression can arise due to the loss of normalcy you may experience during this summer season.Let’s explore seasonal affective disorder as well as warning signs of depression that you may be experiencing for the first time during this unique summer season.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD, or seasonal depression, is a form of depression that occurs when there is a seasonal weather change. When we think of seasonal depression, we often think about the seasons of fall and winter. This is because most individuals experience seasonal depression when the days get shorter and colder. Individuals who suffer from SAD in the fall and winter months often experience symptoms of oversleeping, loss of energy, weight gain and loss of interest in enjoyable activities. Yet seasonal depression during spring and summer is not uncommon.  Similar to seasonal depression that occurs in the colder months, individuals with seasonal affective disorder in the spring and summer months can also feel a loss of interest in activities they enjoy and low energy. Symptoms of summer seasonal depression also include weight loss, difficulty sleeping and anxiety. Though summer is seen as a time of relaxation and celebration, for many individuals with SAD it can be a difficult time filled with frustration. Stressors such as changes in routine, extra financial responsibilities, increased time with extended family members and pressures to obtain “beach bodies” can all contribute to seasonal affective disorder in the summertime. Society’s emphasis that summer is filled with good times can further ignite feelings of shame and depression and encourage isolation in those with SAD, so as to not ruin anyone’s fun. It’s important for individuals who suffer from summer onset of SAD to understand that they are not alone, and they do not have to suppress their feelings of depression. It is OK to seek professional help if seasonal affective disorder is gravely interfering with your daily routine. Mental health treatment can be provided through Discovery Mood & Anxiety Programs.

Summer Depression During a Pandemic

Even if you have not been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, this summer presents unique challenges that could cause depressive symptoms. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many summer plans are a lot different this year. Summer, in normal conditions, is often a time when we must adjust to a new daily routine. Children are typically out of school for the summer and families have to adjust to different activities, mealtimes and sleeping patterns.  Many families take on the responsibility of making plans for summer holidays and vacations. With social distancing restrictions, those routines will look quite different for families this year. For families who look forward to common summer activities, this season comes with the mourning of yesteryear. This is completely normal. In a lot of ways, we are still learning how to adjust in a pandemic. It is normal to feel sad, angry and frustrated about this new way of life.  When those feelings last for days at a time and you feel like you can’t manage your moods, it is important to determine if you are experiencing depression. Here are a few depression symptoms to be aware of during this summer pandemic:

Hopelessness

Quarantine during a pandemic coupled with an illness that is new can breed hopelessness. There are so many “what ifs” as we try to find a way to keep our communities safe and healthy. Not knowing what restrictions will be lifted or if life will ever return to normal has left individuals feeling hopeless. It is difficult to have a positive outlook when you have little to no control over the future. If you find that you are experiencing ongoing feelings of hopelessness or feelings of suicide, please seek professional help immediately.

Loss of Interest

This summer will present the challenge of not being able to do a lot of the activities we enjoy. If we are lucky, we may be able to find safer alternatives to participate in our hobbies and interests. If you find that you are not interested in doing anything at all, this may be a sign of depression. This symptom also coincides with the previous symptom of hopelessness. When you feel hopeless, you often don’t want to engage in any activities that can bring you pleasure.

Loss of Energy

Summertime is often a season of being on the go. With warmer weather, individuals take the opportunity to get outside and participate in activities like swimming, walking or playing sports. With social distancing restrictions, some of these activities are not feasible. A lot more time may be spent in doors. Though our normal energy levels may be down due to our environments, it’s important to notice if you are sleeping excessively or if you do not have energy to do simple tasks. If so, you may be experiencing depression. Despite social distancing restrictions, try to find ways to stay mentally and physically active. If you find that your lack of motivation is severely impairing your activity levels, talk to a mental health professional about depression.

As with any season, it is important to check in with yourself and make sure you are managing your mental health needs.  Whether you are accustomed to seasonal depression or experiencing depressive symptoms for the first time, make sure you have the resources needed to have a healthy summer, both physically and mentally. If you need mental health treatment, Discovery Mood & Anxiety Programs is available to meet your therapeutic needs.

April Cox is a permanency specialist II at Professional Family Care Services in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. She is passionate about the mental health of individuals and families and prides her work on providing practical ways to promote mental health wellness. April has a BA in sociology and has worked as a therapeutic staff support, family-based counselor, and drug and alcohol counselor before transitioning to child welfare, where she helps foster children and foster families process past traumas. April is passionate about the arts and spends her evenings teaching dance classes to all ages.