Endless summer: S.A.D. teen, depressed or just bored


Summer kicks off the wonderful span of 90 days in which children have no school and relish a season of fun. Yet, every summer, children seem to plateau into a stage of boredom in which they seem to have nothing to do. Some teenagers may be dealing with more than just boredom. Depression can be part of the cause, but parents may not be sure how to discern one from the other.


Sitting in front of the TV, flipping channels, a teenager will complain there is nothing to do. A parent asks if he should go play outside with friends; the child grunts no. The child seems glued to the couch and the screen. There may be more to this boredom than meets the eye. As the days of summer go by, the child continues to stay at home and seems more and more depressed.

Depression is a mental disorder usually accompanied with a variety of causes. The National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH, writes the causes for depression can be:

  • Environment
  • Constant stressful situations
  • Life experiences
  • Genes

Depression is more common among teenagers than some parents may realize. In 2012, the National Survey on drug Use and Health found around 2 million adolescents ranging in age from 12 to 17, had experienced major depression at least once. Some people experience depression at a specific season of the year and they are not crazy. There is a form of depression caused by the seasons known as seasonal affective disorder.


Seasonal affective disorder– SAD — is defined as a form of major depression controlled by the change in specific seasons. People may feel more depressed throughout a season and get better with the changes of season. This can make it difficult for people to detect as it is not constant throughout the year. On the other hand, some people notice the pattern as, a gradual progression from mild to severe depression.

Mayoclinic lists symptoms of SAD in the summer to include:

  • Depression
  • Loss in weight and appetite
  • Agitation or anxiety

SAD does not have a specific cause, but can range from three possibilities. One cause is found to be in the biological clock of the individual. “The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD,” and disrupt the, “body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.” People may also struggle with SAD in the summer as the increase in sunlight and heat may also disrupt the biological clock.

Two other causes can include changes of the chemicals melatonin and serotonin in the brain, leading to changes in mood, depression and sleep. To help manage SAD, it is recommended  to socialize and possibly find somewhere with a climate opposite to the specific season of the area one resides. Understanding the difference between SAD, depression and boredom may not be so easy.


In 2012, a group of scientists conducted and published a study defining boredom. The scientists defined boredom as, “the aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in a satisfying activity.” The group also mentions boredom to be an issue of engaging internal emotions and external surroundings. Teenagers will know they are bored and will blame the environment when they are unable to engage.

Boredom can be seen as a teenager wanting to do something more, but being unable to. In this situation, the attention of a child is focused on being bored and no longer on trying to have fun. Sometimes, too much potential for an amazing summer can lead to boredom if nothing is planned out.

Those with depression or other mental disorders may need more than a schedule of activities. It is important to speak with a therapist or doctor if you or a loved one experience signs of depression.

A teenager dealing with a mental illness or behavioral issues may need a mix of therapy, medication and a change of scenery for a while. White River Academy is a therapeutic school for troubled boys ranging from ages 12 to 17, providing aid for boys struggling with issues at school and interpersonal problems. The academy provides treatment and care for the boys, continues a strong education program and instills good character values. For more information or to register, feel free to call 866-520-0905.

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