Summer Sadness + Teens

Ask Julie Smith, Mental Health

“Ever since school let out, my 14 year-old has been moody, down, grumpy, isn’t sleeping and doesn’t seem to want to do anything. I don’t understand. It’s like this ever year. Isn’t summer supposed to be a time of fun and happiness? Is there something wrong with her?”

School’s out, the sun is shining, the pools are packed with friends… it’s the carefree summer dream, right?  Not for everyone.  While much of the population can barely contain their excitement for summer’s arrival, a small percentage long for cooler temps and shorter days. If you have noticed that your teen has feelings of depression, sleeplessness, and irritability that come at the same time each year, she may have a form of seasonal affective disorder.

Summer depression, also called summer seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that commonly shows up in fall and winter. For one percent of the population, the warmer seasons bring on summer SADness.

As the days heat up, those with summer SAD may become extremely irritable, sleep less, and eat less. They may withdraw from friends and activities and isolate indoors.  In its most severe form, people with summer seasonal depression may be more at risk for suicide than cold-weather SAD.  A person with summer SAD may remain indoors, darken the room, and turn up the air conditioning to feel a sense of “normalcy.” However, one step into the heat can take them right back to those feelings of depression.

It’s sometimes easy for parents to overlook symptoms of SAD, or dismiss them as normal mood swings.  The symptoms can be confused with adolescent moodiness, changing hormones, and emotional flux. It’s difficult to know if this is a phase or something more serious. Additionally, summer SAD is often not thought about because there is a sense that everyone should feel happy when days and nights are homework-free, swimsuit-clad and YOLO-infused.


For those affected (including myself), summer sadness is much more than a Lana del Rey song. Please consult a family physician or a licensed mental health professional to determine the right treatment.


xoxo … ~Julie