After a possibly long and cold winter (depending on where you live), springtime feels like a breath of fresh air (quite literally). It is usually associated with warmer weather, cool breezes, and rain showers that help the flowers bloom. Spring is known as the “season for new beginnings.” However, even with the warmer weather, sunshine, and ability to spend more time outside, this doesn’t mean a person will always or automatically feel “happy” after the winter season ends. If someone finds that their mood does not improve or even gets worse as the season changes, you may be experiencing something known as “reverse SAD” or Seasonal Affective Disorder that occurs in other seasons.
Although more commonly discussed, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not something that only occurs during the wintertime. While it may be more associated with this particular season, SAD is something that can occur with the changing of seasons, in general. Some symptoms of springtime/summer SAD or reverse SAD can include low appetite, weight loss, insomnia, restlessness, as well as other “common” depression symptoms such as extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating, or feelings of hopelessness.
So, what can cause springtime/summer SAD or reverse SAD?
1. Environmental factors. One possible cause for springtime SAD could be attributed to various factors within the environment, such as the sudden change in temperature, air pollution, or seasonal allergies. Pollen, for example, can cause inflammation in your body and it has been said the inflammation can be linked to worsening mood or even depression.
2. Excess exposure to light. Speaking of environmental factors, another possible cause for reverse SAD is increased exposure to sunlight. While regular SAD is typically linked to a lack of sunlight, which impacts the body’s ability to produce enough serotonin, too much sunlight can be linked to an overproduction of melatonin. This in turn can have an effect on your body’s circadian rhythm.
3. Change in routine. Come spring and summer is generally when people plan their vacations or start incorporating more activities. While this can be enjoyable, it can also be stressful to plan and try to balance that with everything else. Also, if you have children and they are home for the summer, this can also be a large change in normal routine.
4. Social pressure. Something else that may not be discussed a lot is the social pressure the spring and summer seasons bring. Winter is a typically cold season, depending on your geographical location, and there are also usually fewer social events to attend. While some people find this upsetting, others relish in the time to stay home and may use the winter season as a “cover” to remain isolated. However, once it starts to get warmer and events start picking back up, they no longer have the cold weather as an “excuse” and can feel a lack of security.
These are just some possible causes for reverse seasonal depression, but some people may experience springtime/summer depression for a variety of other reasons, as well. If you found your mood worsening once spring hit or as the season goes on or if you suspect you have seasonal depression, the first step would be to talk to a licensed therapist. A clinician will help determine if you do have seasonal depression and/or reverse SAD, as well as teach you mechanisms to cope with it.
Something else you can do is acknowledge the change and seasonal transition. Change, no matter what, can be stressful, but acknowledging it and giving yourself a break is important. During these times and periods of change, it is also crucial to practice self-care. This can include taking advantage of the nice weather for a walk outdoors, either by yourself or with a friend Or, if you want to take a break from the increased sun exposure, but still relax, maybe get a massage, watch a light-hearted movie, or mediate indoors.
Important: If you do find yourself struggling with reverse SAD, or depression in general, and that no coping skills are working, please reach out to a mental health professional and/or contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 immediately.
Staff Blogger: Mollie Clupper
Mollie Clupper works for MHA as a Communications and Support Specialist. Using her own experiences, she wants to help bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and spending time with loved ones.