Why SAD Hits in Spring and What You Can Do About It

Why SAD Hits in Spring and What You Can Do About It

While most people associate Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) with the shorter, darker days of winter, some people experience a dip in mood and energy levels as spring arrives and the days become longer. Although less common than winter SAD, spring SAD, also known as reverse SAD or summer depression, is a real phenomenon. In this article we explore the reasons behind spring SAD and share some strategies to manage spring SAD.

What is SAD and How Does Seasons Affect Us?

SAD is a type of depressive state characterized by mood changes that occur with the seasons. The most common form, winter SAD, affects people as daylight hours dwindle. Research suggests a connection to our internal body clock, the circadian rhythm, regulated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the brain [1]. The SCN receives information about light exposure from the eyes and uses this information to regulate the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us sleep. During winter's shorter days, melatonin production increases, promoting sleepiness, while serotonin, a mood-regulating hormone, dips [2]. This hormonal imbalance is believed to contribute to the fatigue, low mood, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns experienced by those with winter SAD.

Why Does SAD Happen in Spring?

While the science behind winter SAD is well-established, the mechanisms behind spring SAD are less clear. Interestingly, the very factor that alleviates winter SAD – increased daylight – can also disrupt the SCN in spring. A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders suggests that people with SAD may be more sensitive to these seasonal light shifts, leading to hormonal imbalances like those seen in winter SAD [3]. Additionally, some experts theorize that psychological factors may play a role. Spring often brings social pressure to be outdoors and participate in activities, which some may find overwhelming and lead to feelings of low motivation [4].

Signs and Symptoms of Spring SAD

Spring SAD can manifest differently from its winter counterpart. While fatigue and sleep issues are less prevalent, symptoms like social withdrawal, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and changes in appetite can be prevalent [5].

Strategies for Managing Spring SAD

Fortunately, there are ways to help manage spring SAD:

  • Light Therapy: Light therapy, using a light box that mimics natural sunlight, is a well-established treatment for winter SAD. Studies have shown its effectiveness in managing spring SAD as well [6].
  • Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule: Disruptions to your sleep cycle can worsen SAD symptoms. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, even at weekends, can help regulate your circadian rhythm.
  • Exercise and Healthy Diet: Regular physical activity and a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains are essential for both physical and mental health. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle year-round can bolster resilience to seasonal mood changes.
  • Social Connection: Social isolation can exacerbate low mood; take time to connect with loved ones and engage in social activities you enjoy.
  • Lighten Your Load: Spring often brings a surge in social and professional activities. Don't be afraid to delegate tasks, say no to extra commitments, and prioritize activities that bring you joy.
  • Seek Professional Help: If your symptoms are severe and significantly impact your daily life, consider seeking professional help. Therapy and medication, under the guidance of a healthcare professional, can be effective tools in managing SAD.

Spring SAD, while less common than winter SAD, can still disrupt your enjoyment of this beautiful season. By understanding the potential causes and employing coping strategies, you can effectively manage your symptoms and reclaim your spring.


  1. Lam, R. W., Levitan, R. D., Lam, S. L., & Wong, D. T. (2006). The role of suprachiasmatic nucleus in seasonal affective disorder. Experimental Neurology, 199(1), 242-249. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546664/
  2. Wirz-Justice, A., Benedetti, F., Terman, M., & Rizzoli, V. (2014). Is there a role for melatonin in the pathophysiology of seasonal affective disorder? European Neuropsychopharmacology, 24(10), 1587-1597. 
  3. Leibenluft, E., Wehr, T. A., Goldberg, J., Kelly, C., & Duncan, J. (2001). Seasonal changes in photoperiod affecting mood and sleep in healthy adults.
  4. Partonen, T., Lonnqvist, J., Alho, K., Koskenvuo, M., & Tuulio-Henriksson, A. (2010). Seasonal Affective Disorder in Finland. Journal of Affective Disorders, 121(1-3), 133-140. 
  5. Rosenthal, N. E., Kelly, D., Jacobsen, L., Skwerer, J., & Bauer, M. (1994). Social support, interpersonal conflict, and stress in seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 38(8), 811-819. 
  6. American Academy of Family Physicians. (2020). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).


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