Why Does Springtime Make Some People Depressed?

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

woman thinking deeply

Updated on June 10, 2022.

For many of us, springtime is something to look forward to. It signals the transition from winter's blistering chill to sunnier skies and warmer air. 

Yet, there are some people who begin to feel worse when the weather gets better. They may become depressed or even have thoughts of suicide. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more suicides during spring and summer than in winter or fall. 

These feelings of sadness may be related to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern, a condition that occurs 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 frustration, anxiety, and insomnia. 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 have 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. NAMI Connection, for example, has peer-led meetings in cities across the nation for adults living with mental health conditions. 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 healthcare provider. 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 or call, text, or chat 988. 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 get back to enjoying the season.

Article sources open article sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide Prevention: Facts About Suicide. May 24, 2022. Accessed June 8, 2022.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern. August 2017. Accessed June 8, 2022.
Mayo Clinic. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). December 14, 2021. Accessed June 8, 2022.
Duffy JF & Czeisler CA. Effect of Light on Human Circadian Physiology. Sleep Medicine Clinics. June 2009. 4(2), 165–177.
American Addiction Centers/MentalHealth.net. Depression Hotline Number | 24-Hour Depression Helpline. 2022. Accessed June 8, 2022.
Sleep Foundation. Sleep Hygiene. March 11, 2022. 2022. Accessed June 8, 2022.
Harvard Health Publishing. Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression. February 2, 2021. Accessed June 8, 2022.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mental Health Education. 2022. Accessed June 8, 2022.
MedlinePlus. Seasonal affective disorder. May 1, 2019. Accessed June 8, 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Wonder (online database). Accessed June 8, 2022.

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