Seasonal Affected Disorder: How Covid-19 Makes Us Summer S.A.D.
Summer is here, and it’s really, really, really hot. Local forecasts show 90 degrees and sunny . Ohio weather is looking more and more like what we would expect Florida forecasts to look like. But without the benefit of being close to an ocean. Going out and doing any activity is actually taking a risk. In the era of Covid-19, staying away from people and becoming agoraphobic has actually become a form of self-preservation. But it does come at a cost, which many people are unaware of. Staying inside all the time may be preventing us from getting enough Vitamin-D and which may be causing many people to suffer from seasonal affected disorder (SAD).
The mayo clinic defines Seasonal Affected Disorder as a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons (Mayo Clinic 1). The signs of this disorder are
- Feeling Depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thought of death or suicide.
Heat and Fear Keeping You Inside?
Normally, Seasonal Affected Disorder (S.A.D.), is something that affects people during winter. Shorter days, less sunlight, and people go outside less. A majority of businesses were/are closed, taking a walk around the block, going for a jog, or just taking the dog to the park was something you could do at any time of day. Now, doing any of these tasks are only done done during early morning or really late in the day. It’s just too hot!
1.) The exact cause of SAD is unclear, but several studies link the condition to lack of sunlight
2.) SAD usually affects people who live in high latitudes and areas with lots of clouds (like Ohio)
3.) One theory about how lack of sunlight leads to SAD is that reduced sunlight exposure hinders our biological clock, which regulates our moods, sleep and our hormones. (Whitman 1).
This can cause an imbalance of dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters, which regulate our moods. (Whitman 1). The College of Education of the University of Georgia published an article in the Medical Hypotheses journal which stated:
“Studies show there is a lag about 8 weeks between the peak in intensity of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and the onset of SAD, and this correlates with the time it takes for UV radiation to be processed by the body into vitamin D.(Whitman 1)."
In other words: the less sunlight we get the less vitamin D our bodies can convert. Lack of vitamin D can cause us to become very moody. Or, to put it in a more scientific way,
“… Vitamin D likely functions in a more foundational and regulative role in potentiating the sub-mechanisms associated with the depressive and seasonality factors.” (Whitman 1).
“What we know no is that there are strong indications that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D are also important for good mental health. A few minutes of sunlight exposure each day should be enough for most people to maintain an adequate vitamin D status.” (Whitman 1).
All Our Summer Plans....?
How is it we’re getting a predominately winter ailment during the sunniest season of all? Simply put, staying inside means less exposure to the sunlight, which means less vitamin D. If this were a typical summer we’d be out at pools, baseball games, family bbq's, or traveling to our summer vacation destinations. We’d be getting all the sun and Vitamin D we need. But Covid-19 cancelled nearly all summer plans.
Fear of catching the disease prevents people from going to things that are open, and fear of spreading the disease (if there’s a chance we have it) prevents us from interacting with family and friends. Every time we so somewhere, there is a little voice in the back of our heads saying, is this worth the risk
Summer heat has compounded the issue, making it almost impossible to go outside and not immediately want to go back to air conditioning. Now, most of us are just staying in all day; binge watching Netflix Hulu, Amazon Prime or Disney.
We’ve invented so many ways to get around actually having to go outside. We can literally press buttons on our phones and have our groceries delivered, no-contact delivery from our favorite restaurants, or (From Amazon) literally anything we can possibly think of.
What to Do?
There are several things we can do about it. We can commit to going outside in the sun (when it’s not completely unbearable) for a least ten minutes a day. We can take vitamin D supplements and see if that improves our mood. If depression is really bad and vitamin D supplements and exercise don’t work, we can (and should) seek medical attention.
Staying inside all day and trying not to leave the house is actually very similar to our winter behavior. Instead of avoiding the cold we’re avoiding the heat. We’re not going out because we fear infection, similarly to the way to try to avoid the flu during the winter months. But 2020 has proven to be a year of unusual adjustments and, which may require thinking outside the box.
#Summerblues #Summer #Seasonalaffecteddisorder #S.A.D. #VitaminD #Depression
Whitman, Honor “Researchers link vitamin D deficiency to seasonal affective disorder,” Published December 4, 2014 Medical News Today Accessed July 19, 2020, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/286496