How to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder in Summer

viva mental health blog summer seasonal affective disorder

When people talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder, they don’t often think about summer. But the truth is that just as people can experience the winter blues, the summer can also present its own mental health challenges.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that typically manifests depressive symptoms on an annual schedule. For most, SAD occurs between the fall and winter months, where people are exposed to fewer daylight hours (and vitamin D), and prone to more periods of social isolation. This can lead to more depressive symptoms, such as low mood, low motivation, and difficulty maintaining a normal level of daily functioning. If you’ve ever had anyone in your life experience SAD you know how difficult it can be for them to find the motivation to move through their days, as they normally would. Treatment for SAD can look like psychotherapy for mood management, light therapy, and or antidepressants.

What most people don’t realize, is that some people experience SAD during the spring and summer months. This is summer-pattern SAD and manifests with symptoms similar to its winter type. The main difference is that these symptoms occur annually at the onset of the spring and summer months. People who suffer from summer-pattern SAD are also likely to be treated with antidepressants but aren’t typically prescribed light therapy.

What to Expect with Summer-Pattern SAD

In my experience working as a therapist, summer-pattern SAD can be difficult to address because of social stigma. Because most people expect everyone to like, and be active in the summer months, having summertime SAD can be especially isolating. And most notably, many people aren’t aware that it exists or what contributes to the condition.

In addition to any individual concerns that may bring about summer-pattern SAD, the condition often presents with the following challenges:

  • Difficulty coping with social pressures to be very active, excited and happy about the spring and summer months
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the heat and humidity
  • Concerns about finances and social expectations to go out and spend money on activities, events, and vacations
  • Worries about body weight and appearance

So, if you may have summer-pattern SAD, what can you do?

Acknowledge and accept

One of the most important things that anyone dealing with summer-pattern SAD is to first acknowledge what they are experiencing is valid and real. Summer-pattern SAD happens annually just like its fall/winter counterpart. Just because summertime SAD is much less common that doesn’t mean it’s not valid or real.

Challenge Self-Criticism and Limit Judgment

Living with summer-pattern SAD means dealing with others’ expectations, and maybe even disappointments, of not doing what they think you should be doing. But just like any other mental health condition, if you experience summer-pattern SAD it’s not your fault. All you can do is find ways to treat and manage the condition as best you can.

It’s important to challenge any internalized critical thoughts about dealing with summertime depression. Hyper-focus on others’ expectations and assessments of you will only exacerbate symptoms.

Get Support for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Sometimes we all need help, and summer-pattern SAD can be effectively treated with the right social and professional support. Spend time with compassionate friends who understand you’re trying your best and don’t take your challenges personally. Share your experience with safe people who want to understand and support you in whatever ways they can. Reach out to a mental health professional to find the strategies that will work best for you and your lifestyle moving forward.

With the appropriate social support and treatment, those living with summer-pattern SAD can effectively manage or condition and live well during the spring and summer months.

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