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It’s not just the winter blues; summer seasonal depression, also known as summer-onset seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs during the summer months. Unlike winter seasonal depression, which is linked to shorter daylight hours, summer SAD is triggered by excessive heat and disrupted routines. Symptoms include insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and loss of appetite.

Struggling with mood swings and irritability during the sunny months can be confusing and overwhelming. It’s summer, after all! Everyone’s supposed to be having fun, planning out their vacations, enjoying the surf, soaking in the good weather, or enjoying the long mid- and late-summer evenings.

But there are downsides to the hottest season, too. Dry or humid heat waves, sudden disruptions in set routines, and problems with sleep irregularity can heavily affect mood and even cause long-term symptoms of depression.

This article explores a common question we hear from teens and concerned parents: what is summer seasonal depression?

What is Summer Seasonal Depression?

Summer seasonal depression, also known as summer-onset SAD, is a form of seasonal affective disorder that occurs during the summer months, causing symptoms like anxiety, irritability, and insomnia. Unlike the more common winter-onset SAD, this condition can make the longer days and heat feel overwhelming.

Current estimates state that about ten percent of people with a form of seasonal affective disorder experience symptoms during the hotter months, rather than the winter months. Summer-based seasonal depression also seems to be more common in countries closer to the equator. Researchers aren’t yet sure of all the biological or social factors contributing to summer seasonal depression, but there are some ideas. Here’s what you need to know about summer seasonal depression:

Understanding Seasonal Affective Pattern / Disorder (SAD)

Teens that thrive in routines find their daily schedules disrupted by the summer holidays. Without a replacement routine to help stave off boredom, they might be more susceptible to internal factors that contribute to their depression. In other words, teens who might otherwise cope with their negative feelings through a certain level of consistency in their life find themselves lost during the summer months.

In countries and regions where summer usually means oppressive heat, the hottest weeks of the year become just as challenging as the deepest winter months. Research shows us that extreme heat tends to affect human behavior, making us more irritable and more likely to interpret situations negatively.

Droughts, debilitating heat waves, and other extreme weather conditions – such as tropical storms and flash floods related to rising temperatures – can lead to financial worries, related social tensions, problems with sleep quality due to unbearably hot nights, and resulting mood issues.

Some reasons for summer-related depression can simply be personal. Among seasonal workers or people in the hospitality or tourism business, for example, summer seasonal depression might be the result of a more hectic and unbalanced work-life schedule, overworking, or interpersonal stress caused by conflicts with vacationers.

Symptoms of Summer Seasonal Depression

What characterizes summer seasonal depression? Depressive symptoms are a big clue – but timing is just as important. Doctors screening for seasonal depression want to make sure that the symptoms are related to the summer season. Things to watch out for in teens with summer seasonal depression include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of appetite
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking
  • Feeling guilty or hopeless
  • Feeling down or sad most of the day, for most of the season

If the symptoms get worse as the summer weeks grow longer, and improve around the beginning of the fall season, then it may be a summer seasonal depression.

Causes and Risk Factors

The dark sides of the summer season, such as a loss of structure, hectic work schedules, or uncomfortable temperatures, can apply great amounts of pressure and affect people negatively. But a seasonal depression diagnosis is rare, and more serious than simply feeling moody during a hot and boring summer afternoon.
Researchers believe that genes play a large role in whether someone develops a summer seasonal depression. Teens with a family history of mood disorders or other mental health issues may be more susceptible to a difficult summer break. Co-occurring mental health issues could also play a role in summer seasonal depression.

How Summer SAD Differs from Winter SAD

Risk factors make up most of the differences between summer SAD and winter SAD. The notable risk factors for winter SAD include a lack of sunlight, for example.

But there are differences in how depression can affect people during the summer months versus the winter season. Summer depression tends to be highlighted by loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. On the other hand, winter depression is highlighted by weight gain and oversleeping.

Coping Strategies and Treatments

Identifying the risk factors contributing to a teen’s summer seasonal depression is an important first step. Usual teen depression treatment methods, such as talk therapy, are still important.

Alleviating the seasonal causes often results in immediate improvements, as well. During the winter months, for example, using artificial sunlight and supplementing vitamin D are legitimate treatment methods.

For the summer months, treatment methods might include helping teens stay busy throughout the summer, improving sleep quality and sleep hygiene through bedroom air conditioning or other forms of cooling, and focusing more on stress management in the weeks preceding the season.

When to Seek Professional Help

Even temporary bouts of depression shouldn’t be taken lightly. Depressive episodes can have a long-term impact on a teen’s self-esteem and can become recurring. Like adults, teens are also at risk of self-medicating to deal with an undiagnosed or untreated mental health problem.
If you are worried about your teen’s behavior this summer, talk to them about seeking professional help immediately.

Teen Depression Treatment in Southern California

Are you worried about your teen’s struggle with depression? At Visions Treatment Centers, we specialize in comprehensive and compassionate care tailored to help teens overcome depression.

Discover how our expert team can support your teen’s journey to recovery and a brighter future—schedule a consultation with Visions Treatment Centers today.


We tend to equate summer to good times: fun and sun at the beach, longer periods of sunlight and daytime, no more classes or homework, and in some countries, smaller non-seasonal businesses tend to plan their vacation closedowns around the peak of summer.
But there are downsides to the heat and the scheduling changes. Summer seasonal depression, also known as summer-onset SAD, can make the sunny months difficult, causing symptoms like low mood, irritability, and insomnia.