Portland Therapy Blog

Portland Therapy Blog

Local experts share the latest information and resources on all things mental health.

Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder

Posted: November 06, 2013 by Jeff Guenther

Yeah, it’s a real thing and it affects about 1% of the population. It’s cooler older brother, winter seasonal affective disorder, otherwise knows as SAD, affects about 5% of the population and is much more trendy. It just makes sense that when the clouds come out and the sun goes away people will start to feel blue and depressed. We suffer from a lack of vitamin D and don’t tend to get as much exercise compared to the summer months. Seasonal affective disorder is more accepted in our culture when it’s colder outside.

Summer SAD, or reverse seasonal affective disorder as it’s referred to by therapists, isn’t as widely known and therefor can be left undiagnosed or not taken as seriously by the general public. People tend to have less sympathy for people experiencing summer SAD symptoms because they just don’t understand. The sun is out and you’re supposed to feel good and have fun! That’s the general consensus when it comes to summer and because of that belief summer SAD sufferers may feel even worse than their winter SAD counterparts. It’s not fun feeling down and uncomfortable when you and everyone else thinks you’re supposed have high spirits.

Here are the symptoms that you may be experiencing if you suffer from Summer SAD. They typically start out mild at the beginning of the season and become more severe as the summer months roll on.

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation
  • Poor appetite
  • Increased sex drive (or decreased)
  • Depression

If you think that you suffer from summer SAD you may want to seek out a therapist to figure out the best way to cope. Otherwise, you can try to manage it on your own. Here are a few tips:

  • Try to figure out if it’s the heat or the light that bothers you the most. A lot of times it’s one or the other. When you can identify which one it is you can go ahead and just try to control your exposure to that element. It’s not as overwhelming when you can hone in on exactly what it is.
  • Stay inside or stay in the shade. This may seem obvious but it can be really tricky at times. Here in the Pacific Northwest where the sun doesn’t come out very much, you may start to develop sun guilt. Sun guilt is that feeing where you have to squeeze every ounce of good times out of the nice weather so not to miss any opportunity for outside fun. If you feel worse being in the hot weather you might as well just drop the guilt and stay inside. It’s not worth feeling anxious and irritated just because you and others think that you’re supposed to take advantage of the weather.
  • Invest in an air conditioner. Even though the season lasts only three months it may be worth your mental health to spend the cash.
  • Tell people about it. Like I said before, most people don’t know anything about Summer SAD. Educate your friends and family so that they can have some sympathy for you and you can experience less shame about it.
  • Take cool showers throughout the day. Sometimes all it takes is to just lower your overall body temperature.
  • Hold an ice cold glass of water in your hand. This can work as a quick fix sometimes. If you hold a beverage full of ice right up against your palm and squeeze tight this can send a lot of coolness throughout your whole body.

Again, if you feel overwhelmed and helpless or powerless about it all you should make an appointment with a therapist or a doctor. There’s a bunch of other things you can do in order to combat the symptoms. Medication may even be an option for you if it’s severe enough.

If you are one of the very unlucky people that suffers from both winter SAD and summer SAD than I don’t know what to tell you. Sorry? Try living under the sea? Maybe an apartment on the moon?

Tags: mood and feelings

Jeff Guenther (he/him)

Licensed Professional Counselor


I help people who feel anxious in relationships stop feeling anxious in relationships.

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Anxiety, Codependency, Adjustment Disorder, Relationship / Marriage Issues, Self-Esteem