Can Seasonal Affective Disorder Happen in Summer? | Aspris UAE Mental Health News and Blog | Aspris Wellbeing Centres UAE

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is often known or referred to as “winter depression” or the “winter blues”, because it typically begins around the beginning of winter, and symptoms tend to improve as Spring comes in. However, there is a less common type of seasonal affective disorder, that occurs during the summer months and it’s referred to as “summer depression“.

Summer-onset seasonal depression is also much more common in countries that are closer to the equator, thought to be due to significantly increased heat and humidity.

Common signs and symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s important to recognise SAD symptoms and act as soon as possible to ensure appropriate help is sought. Some signs of summer seasonal depression include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Fatigue, persistent tiredness or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Sleep disturbances, including difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty staying asleep
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Irritability, agitation or feeling on edge
  • Social withdrawal e.g. withdrawing from activities, family and/or friends
  • Difficulty concentrating or struggling to focus, reduction in ability to make decisions
  • Persistent thoughts of harming oneself

Keep in mind that experiencing one or two of these symptoms occasionally may not indicate depression, but if several of these persist over an extended period and significantly impact daily life, it may be beneficial to seek professional advice.

Elizabeth Aizlewood, Clinical Psychologist at Aspris Wellbeing Centre Dubai, said:

“It is very common for people to feel a certain pressure to be happier during the summer months.

“This may be for a variety of reasons. In many cultures, summer is associated with school holidays, trips abroad, relaxation and fun, all of which can create an expectation to be happy during this time.

“Furthermore, we experience the influence of the media, and social media which often portray summer as a time of freedom, fun and adventure, further contributing to the perception that one “should” be happy during summer.”

What are the causes of summer depression?

The exact cause of summer sadness is not known, however there are likely to be a wide range of contributing factors including:

  • Disruption to routines (e.g. childcare, school or work, sleep and eating patterns)
  • Sensitivity to heat and humidity: some people may have a biological sensitivity to high temperatures or humidity, which can trigger symptoms of depression. For some, it can feel oppressive and can lead to avoidance of going outside and withdrawal from social activities, which may contribute to a declining mood
  • Disrupted circadian rhythms: Longer daylight hours and more intense sunlight during the summer can disrupt your body's internal biological clock, or circadian rhythms, leading to feelings of depression
  • Body image issues: As the temperature increases, many people feel pressure to wear fewer clothes. While for some this is just an enjoyable part of summer, for others this creates a huge sense of pressure to have “the perfect body” ready in time for the summer months. For those who feel self-conscious about their appearance, social pressure to wear less (or more revealing) clothing, or swimming costumes for example, can create high levels of anxiety
  • Loneliness or isolation: Whilst summer is often portrayed as a fun time full of social activities, those who do not have the social life they would like may be left feeling even more lonely and isolated, particularly when confronted by social medial portrayals of others having a great time

How to help if you think you or someone you know has summer depression

If you recognise summer depression symptoms in yourself, it may be helpful to seek support from a mental health professional who can provide specialised assessment and treatment for depression, which may involve talking therapies and/or another treatment plan. Other things you can do to help yourself include:

  • Reaching out to a family member or friend who you trust and can share how you are feeling with
  • Prioritise your own self-care: identify activities that help you to feel soothed and calm, and that boost your mood. (e.g. regular exercise, eating healthily and ensuring a regular sleep routine, avoiding alcohol)
  • Set small, achievable goals for yourself throughout the day: This is likely to increase your motivation and foster a good mood as you see yourself succeeding at accomplishing the tasks you set yourself. Remember: small, achievable goals are best, as if a goal is unmanageable this may backfire and result in feelings of failure
  • Try to do activities that you used to enjoy, even if you don’t feel like doing it in the moment: Engaging in pleasant activities, such as light exercise, art or reading, has been shown to be an incredibly effective treatment in depression

Contact us today

If you’d like to speak to one of our friendly team of experts about Seasonal Affective Disorder or any of our mental health services, please contact us today on (+971) 4 385 4493 for our Dubai clinic, or (+971) 2 651 8111 for our Abu Dhabi clinic.

Alongside our adult services, we also have specialist and dedicated teams of child therapists, highly experienced in supporting a wide range of mental health, development and behavioural needs. Our specialist children and adolescent services include assessments for autism and ADHD, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy. Find out more about our child and adolescent services here.

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Dr Elizabeth Aizlewood, Clinical Psychologist

This page was clinically reviewed by Elizabeth Aizlewood. Dr Elizabeth Aizlewood is a UK trained, DHA licenced Clinical Psychologist, with extensive experience working in the National Health Service. She completed her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Canterbury Christ Church University in the UK and is also licenced by the Health and Care Professions Council. To view Dr Aizlewood's full profile, click here.