Does Your Depression And Anxiety Increase When the Weather Changes?

It's Friday, a beautiful bright day. The weather is going to be sunny and warm over the weekend. Everyone is getting ready to have a bbq, open a few beers, and relax in the park. You would think that for someone who suffers from depression a bit of sunshine after all of the rain would offer some relief, something to look forward to, a chance to heal. For some that may be the case, but for me, it is quite the opposite.

It is known that the cold, dark, wet weather and short days results in higher cases of depression. But for me, that kind of day is an opportunity to hide away when I am feeling low, and not feel bad about retiring to bed early when I am exhausted from trying to appear normal and function well like everyone else around me. Cold, dark days mean I feel less exposed when I go out because there are fewer people around and I can hide away underneath my hat, a scarf, and a big coat and feel invisible. I think I am at my most relaxed in the autumn and wintertime. I can feel like myself.

When the weather changes from being cold, wet, and grim to warm, bright and sunny, I start to feel very, very anxious. I don't think living in a big city like London helps. The sun appears and everyone comes out to play, except me. 

I sit at home trying to convince myself that I'll enjoy my walk with the dog once I get out there, and I probably will if I stick to the backstreets and avoid the parks. The whole point of walking the dog when the weather is nice though is to go to the park. And because I have a dog, I have to go to the park, every single day, otherwise, I feel even more guilty and down on myself for being such an unsociable weirdo and making my dog depressed too!

Yesterday I was in the park watching my dog play with someone else's dog, and the dog's owner ambled up to me and said " Oh isn't it lovely?" She was referring to the sunshine. 

"Yes," I replied with a big smile on my face especially for her, "It really is lovely." 

And I wasn't lying, it was beautiful and I was enjoying the warmth of the sun on my back. What I kept to myself was the fact that it had taken me two hours to convince myself to take my dog to the park that morning, and that I had planned a route that would ensure I had to pass as few people as possible, and that I fervently hoped she would go away and leave me alone to enjoy the sun when I worked so hard to get myself out into it.

It was different when I lived outside of London in the countryside and by the sea. The summer was so beautiful, and I looked forward to my walks with my dog. I could go on a long three-hour hike in the woods, across fields, past farmland, along the top of a clifftop looking out to sea, and we might not even pass a single human being. Or if we did we could maintain a comfortable distance. It was absolute bliss.

Living in London, and on the main road, means every single time I step out of my house I am confronted by people. People stand at the bus stop across the road and see me as I walk out of my front gate. People try to make eye contact as I walk past them on the street. People watch me from their cars when they are stuck in traffic. The builders down the road see me pass by every single day. The people in the corner shop talk to me when I go to buy milk. 

What's worse is that people interact with me more because I have the cutest dog in the world. My dog wants to be everybody's friend, and that makes people think that I want to be their friend too. They smile at me and say hello, or comment on how lovely my dog is, which I appreciate, but really I just want them not to notice me at all. And when the weather improves, like this weekend, all of this social activity increases in intensity because suddenly everyone is in a good mood. To top it off everyone looks amazing, and they flaunt their wellness as they strut about in their sunglasses and summer outfits.

I don't want to pull anyone down with me. In fact, I am not even feeling that low today. But I am still dreading my afternoon walk with the dog. The park will be full of picnics and my dog will be targeting anyone with food, which means that I have to interact with people in order to apologise when she tries to steal their sandwiches. Everyone will be out with their dogs, and while I do love to see my dog being sociable and enjoying herself, that doesn't mean I want to be sociable too. 

You can't escape people in the summertime though. Anxiety and depression are ever-present for people like me (if there are indeed other people like me).  And just when I am starting to get used to it all, the weather changes back and the healing warmth I have just started to enjoy is gone.

I feel like I might be the only person in the world who feels like this about the weather because I hear so many people talking about it the other way around. I am the kind of person who looks ahead at the weather forecast to see when it is going to be hot, not because I am looking forward to it, but because I need time to mentally prepare myself. Do you experience anything similar? Tell me I'm not the only one. 

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  1. I completely understand and empathise with you. It feels like everyone is gearing up to have a great time except me and that makes me feel even worse!

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment on my post. It's a relief to hear that there are other people who feel the same way. I mean, I know that there must be, but sometimes I think it sounds so absurd to feel that way about nice weather that I must truly be the only one. Of course it's not necessarily the weather is it, or even the people. Its mental illness xx

  2. I've only been diagnosed about a year ago, so the only thing I have to judge it with is past experience with no context as to anything different about me. (Yes, I know I'm different, since I spend an unusually large percent of my time writing about, photographing, and hanging around my plushies, but that's been who I am since I was very little. I just never stopped being that. lol)

    Just so there is no confusion, I'm an American living in Philly, so we have city-living in common, albeit completely different cities.

    I love being outside in spring and fall, but hate winter and summer. That has more to do with temperatures than people. But "outside" means in my garden. You would call my house a terrace house, (I think), although we call them rowhomes. So my garden is only 16 feet by 16 feet, as are my neighbors' backyards. (The only other visible yard with plants in it is two doors down. Everyone else opted for ignoring the back yard or building decks to grill or gab on.) Usually, the neighbors are kind enough to go to the shore from spring to fall, so I only, occasionally, have to say Hi. (Hubby downright talks to them. :o)

    I prefer alone, but that's not cyclothymia. That's because I'm an introvert. I gather my energy alone, and expend it around other people. That's also why I'd rather write or "play in my garden." (Others see me working in the garden. To me, it's play.) I do like the park, but not the park a block from here with all those people. The park a mile from here where hubby, I, and my plushies, (I call them stuffies, but I'm trying to write this in British, more than American), go for picnics away from other people, I take pictures of my stuffies, and hubby takes pictures of me taking pictures of my stuffies. That's my comfort zone.

    What's not my comfort zone is last summer when no one went to the shore. Man! My neighbors can talk and talk and talk. (And what's wrong with a opossum in the neighborhood? Sure, they're ugly, but they eat everything that's wrong with urban living -- bugs, rats, mice, carrion, and garbage. I don't like the amount of those things we have, say thank you, Mr. Opossum, but stay away from me.) They're still out there gabbing to each other, (whoops, I think you call that nattering), so I've been praying the pandemic is gone sometime this summer, so I can get my quiet garden back.

    But worse than nattering neighbors is small gatherings, Zoom meetings, or before and after church. (I'd say "large party," but I just don't go to them. Period.) I'm thinking 20,000 things while the other person is small talking. The only difference I see now compared to when I know I didn't have cyclothymia is now sometimes the 20,000 things I'm thinking spin up to 200,000 things.

    I am not a hermit.

    But the only reason I'm not is because hubby is friendly to people and I do like church and the people going to church with me. I just never know what to say. Introvert.

    Any chance you're an introvert too? If you're preferred way to socialize is in writing, then you could be an introvert. If this long-winded comment made you wish you had simply taken the dog to the park, than it's more likely what you said to start with.

    But I do like being with people this way. At a distance. Depressed, hyper, or just-me.

    Lynn (my old blog was about the teddy bear family. At least I know I'm not a teddy bear.)

    1. Hi Lynn :)

      Thank you so much for your wonderful long comment, I loved reading it. Language differences are so funny, I have no idea what a plushie or a stuffie is, but I'm assuming perhaps - dog?

      Yes, I am definitely an introvert too, and I think that it can be difficult a lot of the time to distinguish between what is "personality" and what is "disorder".
      Mine is probably a bit of both. I have always felt most comfortable in my own skin when I am by myself, but I can be very sociable when it suits me. That's not so often these days though.

      Like you, I was a lot more sociable when I lived with my boyfriend (now ex). But I was pretty sociable before him too, again, when it suited me. I think since getting older and being diagnosed it has changed how I think about myself and my confidence has perhaps suffered.

      Spring and fall are also my favourites as I am not keen on extreme temperatures, and I just think the world is prettier during those two seasons.

      It sounds like you live in a close-knit community with your chatty neighbours? I do enjoy a good natter when i'm in the right mood, but not every day, or even every other day. Lockdown must have been an absolute nightmare for you. For me it was total bliss. Especially in the beginning because suddenly the city went quiet and it felt like Sunday every day with no traffic hardly on the roads. Living on a main road without double glazing is something I hate with a passion.

      I hope that you do get your quiet garden back soon. I wish I had a garden... a quiet one. I have an indoor jungle instead with my collection of 50 odd houseplants.

      Anyway, thank you again for taking the time to chat. Lovely to meet you!

      Zara x

    2. Plushie/Stuffie = stuffed animals. Dogs included, but not exclusively. lol

      I am thinking this disorder is making me second guess everything for fear of a public meltdown, however, the only public meltdown before knowing I have this was situationally-appropriate, so why worry now? (I suspect because that's part of me too.)

      Tight-knit community? Yes, but it's family related, and I'm not part of the family. Most of my neighbors are second/third generation Italian-Americans, so everyone moves within three blocks of their families for two generations now, 75% of the neighborhood is related to each other closely or distantly. And then there are the rest of us. lol

      But, I did enjoy the lockdown for less people, doctor appointments are done by phone so no waiting rooms, and much of the world found out how we live most of the time, even though they don't know it. (We're both disabled so can't get out much anyway.) I only hated two obvious things -- people getting sick and dying from COVID and the damn facemasks to buy groceries, but free of them to eat in public. About 30% of Americans don't want vaccinations, and the vulnerable one are vaccinated, so the only worry now is what happens when kids get it?

  3. Oh yes.. the time of year has such an impact on my depression/anxiety condition. It’s been much better the past few years, but dark, cold, cloudy days will easily trigger bouts of depression which in turn easily cause my anxiety levels to ramp up.

    It was at its worst a few years ago when we lived in Virginia. The winters there were so dreary. Cold and rainy. I cannot think about VirginIa without the terrible depression I suffered. It nearly caused me to be admitted as an in-patient and dramatically affected my military career while stationed there.

    Good write-up. You’re not alone.. you’re affected much differently than I was.. beautiful weather usually made me feel fantastic, although there were times when blue skies and balmy temps did nothing but male me feel worse as well.

    1. Hi Dave,

      So sorry to hear about your terrible depression :( That must have been horrible for you.

      I've found that there are more people who seem to be affected by the winter weather than summer (I have been chatting in groups on Facebook). I have felt like a bit of an odd one out. But there were a few who held their hands up at having the same experience as me in the summertime, so that helped :D

      It has certainly been interesting to see how the weather has such a different effect on different people.

      I think also that aside from mental illness, it has a lot to do with personality too. I am naturally introverted (unless very hypomanic) and so it makes sense that I feel more relaxed in my own company and when there are fewer people about. Everyone comes out of their shells in summer, which is why it triggers my symptoms I guess.

      Hope you are keeping well and enjoying the nice weather - if the weather is nice where you are? We are now seeing higher temperatures and more sun, and I'm feeling much better about it this week :)

      Thanks for your comments :) x

  4. Sorry about the typos. Arrrgh

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    1. Hi Joe! It's so good to hear that you are enjoying my content. Thank you so much for sharing my blog as well, I really appreciate it. I want to write more regularly, but its tricky to maintain momentum and post consistent content with the ebb and flow of mood swings. It's frustrating, but hearing that there are people who have found my posts to be useful or entertaining really helps to keep me in the right frame of mind :) I will write something else soon x


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