When people talk about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the culprit is typically the winter.
Those three months — cold, dreary, dark and marked by fatigue and a sense of hibernation — often come with an uptick in depression and other mental health symptoms.
However, a less-often-discussed aspect of SAD, which affects between 0.5% to 3% of individuals, is when it arrives in the summer months.
With longer days, more sunshine and warm weather — and the opportunity to socialize more — it’s expected you’ll naturally feel better. Instead, many people find themselves feeling just as bad as they do during winter — or sometimes worse.
Recognizing this phenomenon, TikTokers are discussing the issue by utilizing the hashtags #SummertimeSadness and #MentalHealth. Countless users are lamenting a resurgence of their depression and anxiety symptoms during peak summer months.
Often set to the tune of Lana del Rey’s hit song “Summertime Sadness,” TikTokers note “We gotta start realizing that summertime sadness is real.
In a video with one million likes, commenters noted that they’ve “never felt so alone, this summer more than any other summer, I isolated myself from everyone.”
In another video, TikToker Kate Metz shows videos of her crying in her car, curled up on her couch, or looking distressed in bed with the words, “How’s your summer going?!” The top comment reads “My entire summer has looked like this.”
While the concept of summertime sadness has gained traction online, it has also been the subject of analysis by psychiatrists and mental health counselors who acknowledge it as a critical issue.
In a blog post last month, University of Arizona assistant professor psychiatry Dr. Rohit Madan explained how seasons can affect mood so dramatically.
Changes in light exposure, temperature, allergies and social influences can all have an impact on a person’s mental health, he wrote.
For example, longer summer days can bring with it excessive exposure to light, which in turn can impair your circadian rhythm and sleep. Extreme heat can also lead to fatigue, dehydration and irritability — a growing concern given the emerging impact of climate change.
“The influence of weather on mood is a complex topic, and research has shown that both winter and summer months can impact our mood,” Madan explained in the post.
While there’s been limited research into summertime SAD, about 10% of people with the condition “have summertime worsening of mood symptoms,” Maden said, and “as psychiatrists, we do see it.”
Beyond the effects summer can have on one’s physical and mental health, another contributing factor could be FOMO — or “the fear of missing out.’
“I’m not having fun this summer,” a TikTok video by Ari Eastman noted. “I don’t know why summer is so hard on me, but it’s isolating when an entire season is advertised as fun, being outside, vacations, all these activities that I don’t want to be a part of.”
When it comes to dealing with “summertime sadness,” many of the tips are similar to those for managing general anxiety and depression.
Some TikTokers have offered advice on how to feel better during the summer months, such as acknowledging your feelings, establishing an easy routine to follow as well as spending more time in nature and taking time away from social media.