Now that it's summertime, there seems to be a huge misconception that because school is out and stress levels typically seem to be less, that depression just disappears. Unfortunately, this is not the case, rather just a misconception.
In case you are unfamiliar with seasonal affective disorder, also referred to as SAD, it is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons, beginning and ending at about the same time every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, leaving you feeling irritable and moody. However, although it is uncommon, what most people aren't aware of is that some people's seasonal affective disorder causes depression in the spring and summer months.
To be diagnosed with SAD, people must meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons (appearing in the winter or summer months) for at least 2 years.
For the 1/10th that experience what some refer to as "reverse" seasonal affective disorder,, there are several daunting questions that critics seem to ask, such as: "Why are you so sad? Shouldn't you be happy because it's summertime?" The truth is, not nearly as many studies have been done to help psychologists understand reverse seasonal depression as much as the traditional seasonal depression that occurs during the year's colder months.
While winter SAD is often linked to a lack of sunlight, it is thought that summer SAD is due to the too much sunlight, leading to an increase of melatonin production. Others speculate that people stay up later in the summer, confusing their circadian rhythms. Surprisingly, summer SAD and winter SAD seem to be prevalent in areas that have hotter temperatures in the summertime. In summary, people in the southern region of the U.S. tend to experience summer SAD more so than those in the northern regions (and vice versa).
Another more modern link that researchers have tied summer depression to is a fear of missing out, or FOMO. When all your other friends are posting about how much fun they're having going to the beach and studying abroad, you can begin to feel like you're missing out on something, especially if you are already feeling down, to begin with.
That being said, if you notice one of your friends seems a little under the weather, do not assume that just because it's summertime that they're supposed to be happy. Depression can be seasonal, it can come in waves, or it can linger for months. Everyone's struggle with mental illness is different and should be treated as a deeply personal matter.
We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline