Summer? Bummer. The Curse of Sunny-Day Depression

As temperatures rise, mood tanks for some who claim a rare form of depression.

ByABC News
July 21, 2009, 8:29 PM

July 22, 2009— -- The summer got off to a slow start in Santa Monica, Calif., -- and Saskia Smith could not have been more pleased.

"We had two months of relative cool and cloud coverage," she recalled. "That really was like a soothing balm."

But then the weather got warmer. And unlike the throngs of sun worshippers who head to the outdoors at the first sign of warm weather, the 32-year-old Smith said for her the summer months bring about depression and anxiety.

"I look outside now, and I acknowledge a perfect, beautiful blue sky," she said. "But then I look at the sun and the heat coming off the pavement and I say, 'Ugh, I don't want to go outside.'"

It may seem like an unusual reaction, and it is; psychology experts say only a handful of people experience this particular variation of what is known as seasonal depression. And some even doubt that a depressive condition specifically linked to the summer months actually exists.

"As a clinical psychologist in the practice and research sphere, my understanding is that 'reverse' seasonal affective disorder is not a true disorder or diagnosis and is mentioned only a few times in the existing clinical literature," said Katherine Muller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. "Depending on the presenting symptoms, clinicians would likely label this as a mood disorder and offer treatments that we know are effective for depression, such as antidepressant medications and/or cognitive behavioral psychotherapy."

Smith is not alone, however. John, 73, of Oregon (who requested that his full name be withheld) said he has experienced periods of depression, each lasting for several months, that have coincided with seven of the last eight summers. At the time John spoke with, he said he was in the midst of just such an episode.