Why Does Springtime Make Some People Depressed?

Why Does Springtime Make Some People Depressed?

It’s a myth that suicide rates are highest in winter.

Springtime is usually something to look forward to. For most, it signals the transition from winter's blistering chill to sunnier skies and warmer air. Yet, there are a number of people who actually feel worse when the weather gets better.

In fact, when April and May roll around, some may become depressed. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates are highest during spring and fall. Those feelings of sadness may be related to seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—a condition occurring when the seasons change.

SAD in the spring
Chances are you’ve heard of SAD. While it commonly affects people during fall and winter, it can also happen in the spring or summer. Reverse SAD makes up about one-tenth of SAD cases.

People who experience this type of depression often have difficulty focusing and sleeping, as well as a poor appetite. Though winter SAD tends to make people tired and zap their energy, reverse SAD often has the opposite effect, causing them to feel agitated and restless. They may also feel lethargic or hopeless, have a decreased interest in activities they once enjoyed, experience withdrawal from family and friends or even have suicidal thoughts.

Reverse SAD may result from the discomfort of summer’s heat and humidity, which can trigger insomnia, anxiety and general annoyance. Usually, just sitting in an air-conditioned room does not improve these symptoms. Instead it might require the help of a physician or therapist. For some, taking trips to northern places with cooler temperatures helps during the spring and summer months.

The condition may also be affected by lifestyle changes, increased exposure to sunlight and disruptions in circadian rhythm—your body’s natural clock—which can lead to changes in sleep patterns.

How to manage springtime depression
Managing springtime depression is similar to managing depression all year round. Here are some tips you can use to begin to feel better:

Take baby steps: “It's hard to get motivated when you're depressed,” says Bruce Conn, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Coliseum Medical Centers in Macon, Georgia. So, do something that interests you. It doesn’t have to be big; phoning a friend or crafting can be enough to help.

Get enough sleep: It’s not uncommon for those with depression to experience insomnia, so Conn urges people to practice good sleep hygiene. This means disconnecting, avoiding stimulants and turning off the lights before bedtime. “Let nighttime be nighttime,” says Conn. Allergies can also disrupt one’s sleep schedule, and a lack of sleep can feed into depression.

Try an exercise you like: “There's definitely a connection between how we feel emotionally and how we feel physically,” says Conn. If you’re feeling depressed, it can be difficult to jump into an exercise routine right away. So, start off doing an activity that you like, whether that’s walking outside for five minutes or riding your bike. If you don't suffer from allergies, spring is the perfect time to try a new outdoor sport or running club.

Find people like you: Joining a support group is a good way to connect with people who share your experiences and can help you cope. Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) have weekly and monthly support groups, like NAMI Connection. The peer-led meetings are for adults living with mental health conditions, and occur in cities across the nation. Or, try the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which has hundreds of support groups focusing on specific conditions, like anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and depression.

Talk to a therapist: If feelings like hopelessness or lethargy have persisted for more than two weeks, connect with a doctor. They can check to see if your symptoms are related to something physical. If your physical health checks out, they can refer you to a specialist who can prescribe medication and recommend other therapies.

If you find that your springtime depression is becoming unmanageable and you're having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also visit their website for help and more information.

Springtime doesn’t have to be a time to dread. With the right help from a professional, family and friends, you can slowly get back to enjoying the season.

Medically reviewed in April 2019.

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