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Reverse SAD: Is summertime sadness a thing?

Reverse SAD: Is summertime sadness a thing?

Depression can follow a seasonal pattern for some people, including the summer.

Reviewed by:
Caitlin Gardiner, MD
View bio
June 29, 2024
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Key takeaways

  • Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that happens during the colder months.
  • The opposite of winter blues is sometimes referred to as "summer depression" or "reverse seasonal depression.
  • Antidepressants can effectively help lessen your symptoms.
In this article

Summertime sadness, or summer-pattern seasonal affective disorder (SAD), occurs when you experience depressive episodes throughout the summer months. While there is little research on summer-pattern SAD because it’s much less common than winter-pattern SAD, it’s a well-known phenomenon. It causes persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness that last for around 4-5 months of the year.  

If you experience more frequent depressive episodes in the summertime, keep reading. In this article, we’ll review why people experience SAD and 7 ways to cope.

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Can you get seasonal depression in summer?

The short answer is yes, it’s possible to get seasonal depression in summer. There are two types of seasonal depression, also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The most common type is winter-pattern SAD. This type occurs when people experience frequent depressive episodes during the winter months. It’s often attributed to the lack of sunlight, which may cause lower serotonin levels.

Summer-pattern SAD, also called reverse seasonal depression, is less common. There is a common misconception that depression only occurs during the winter months. While this misconception may seem believable since winter brings shorter days and colder weather, it’s not true. Depression may strike during any season or time of year, including summertime when the days are longer.

Why do people get sad during summer?

There are a a few reasons you may experience reverse seasonal depression. Some people’s bodies and minds have difficulty coping with seasonal changes, like high temperatures and longer days. Sleep quality may also decline in hotter months. Too much bright light can make it hard for our body to make melatonin, which helps us get ready for sleep. This can lead to trouble sleeping. When we don't have enough melatonin—and serotonin, which helps make melatonin—it can affect how we feel.  

Additionally, some individuals who don't have any seasonal may feel a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) when they see others enjoying themselves a summer vacation. This can have an impact on their mood and self-esteem, and for some, it might even trigger feelings of depression.

It’s important to remember that not all depression that occurs during summer (or winter) is considered seasonal affective disorder. SAD is a form of depression that lasts 4-5 months out of the year and must occur at least two consecutive summers in a row. If you additionally experience major depressive disorder (MDD) or bipolar disorder and have depressive episodes year-round, you’ll see an increase in the frequency of episodes in general.

Symptoms of reverse seasonal depression

Here are summer SAD symptoms you may experience:

  • Decreased energy
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Feelings of sadness and/or hopelessness
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Trouble sleeping

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7 Tips for coping with summertime seasonal depression  

Ready to tackle your summertime sadness? Here are some coping techniques that may help improve your symptoms.

1. Set a consistent sleep schedule  

Many people find it harder to get high-quality, consistent sleep in the summertime. To combat this difficulty, establish a healthy nighttime routine. This may include putting your phone away an hour before bed and using a sound machine to create a peaceful environment. It’s also a good idea to stop drinking any caffeinated beverages after lunchtime.  

A consistent sleep schedule is perhaps the most important thing for good sleep hygiene. Decide what time you’ll go to bed each night, and give yourself plenty of time to wind down beforehand.

2. Practice mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness is a meditative practice that helps you learn to stay present and quiet your mind. These skills are helpful in times of distress and help improve your emotional regulation.

To practice mindfulness meditation, follow these steps:

  • Sit comfortably and focus on your breathing. Slowly inhale and exhale.  
  • As thoughts come to you, bring your attention back to your breath. Try not to pass any judgment on your thoughts and allow them to come and go.

Over time, this practice will become easier. You’ll be able to stay present and grounded even when you feel anxious and overwhelmed.

3. Connect with friends and family

Social support is an important part of everyone’s mental health. Do your best to stay connected to loved ones rather than isolating during the summer. This might look like texting or calling a family member once a week or meeting up with a friend for coffee or a walk. Try whatever feels the most accessible for you.  

Consider letting your loved ones know what’s going on and how they can support you. Being open and honest about your struggles with SAD will help you remain connected to your loved ones and keep them informed of your well-being.

4. Practice relaxation and breathing exercises

Studies show that breathing exercises promote more positive feelings and help alleviate symptoms of depression. This is because deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your body’s ability to calm down.

Try a breathing exercise called pursed lip breathing:

  • Sit comfortably.
  • Inhale through your nose for two seconds.  
  • Purse your lips as if you’re drinking through a straw or making a kissing face.
  • Slowly exhale through your mouth for at least four seconds.  
  • Repeat several times.

5. Participate in mood-boosting activities

Depression often leads to isolation and a lack of interest in activities you once found enjoyable. Combat these symptoms by prioritizing mood-boosting activities, like spending time in nature or trying new hobbies. You can also use these activities as a way to meet new friends or connect with your loved ones.

6. Prioritize self-care

Self-care is a great way to improve your energy levels and self-esteem, even during a depressive episode. Set an easy-to-follow self-care routine so that it becomes habitual over time. This may look like getting regular exercise, prioritizing sleep, practicing gratitude, or talking to loved ones. It may also be as simple as following a skincare and personal hygiene routine. The activities that make you feel more like yourself are a great place to start.  

One thing you might also want to do as part of your self-care routine is avoid or cut down on social media if you think it’s inducing summer SAD.

7. Work with a mental health professional

Depression is a serious mental health condition, and it’s important to seek treatment and professional help for it. Working with a mental health professional to develop a treatment plan can help you feel like yourself again and live a more fulfilling day-to-day life. A psychiatrist may recommend medication, therapy, or a combination of both. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common form of therapy that promotes healthy thought processes and coping mechanisms.

Looking for the right place to start? Meet Talkiatry. Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care—and you can schedule a first visit within days. Get started with a short online assessment.

The information in this article is for education and informational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

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What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

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Caitlin Gardiner, MD

Dr. Caitlin Gardiner is a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Dr. Caitlin Gardiner's practice is based on the biopsychosocial model and believes that the foundation of healing is in psychotherapy and human connection. She is known for incorporating therapy into her medication management practice. Typically she offers 30-minute follow-up visits for medication management with focused therapy based on individual needs.

As a known helper, Dr. Gardiner started her career with a bachelors degree in social work from Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, NY. After changing career paths she received her medical degree from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY. She stayed at Upstate to complete her general psychiatry residency where she was chief resident during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following this, she completed her child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at Upstate due to the high quality of training. Dr. Gardiner has completed 3 years of advanced training in Dynamic Deconstructive Psychotherapy as well as specialized training in DBT.

Dr. Gardiner is a well -rounded psychiatrist who enjoys treating youth and young adults during transitional phases of life while providing a safe and supportive environment. She believes strongly in reducing polypharmacy and providing high-quality medication management through a therapeutic and developmental lens.

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