With shorter days and cooler temperatures that make it difficult to absorb Vitamin D from the sun, winter is often a common time for many people to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, Arizona is unique compared to the rest of the country in that its residents come alive in the winter and hide away indoors during the summer. As a result, it’s common for desert dwellers to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder during the hottest months of the year.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is when people feel depression during a certain season. It is often more common in the winter months due to shorter days and lack of sun but oddly enough, it can still be experienced during the summertime. So how is it that seasonal changes cause depression?
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According to Dr. Maggie Garvin, NMD and member of the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association, there is no clear cause but the main factors in play are longer days and increased daylight.
“During the summer, days are longer, and more consumption of daylight can cause a biochemical imbalance because too much sun stops melatonin production,” said Dr. Garvin. “Longer days can throw people off and cause sleep schedules to be severely impacted. The summer sun also begins disrupting circadian rhythms and can lead to triggers in depression symptoms.”
In addition to what might be causing summer depression, Dr. Garvin stated that some symptoms to be wary of and keep a look out for include loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, weight loss, and anxiety.
There are several treatments for SAD, ranging from keeping indoors and cool to antidepressants. One helpful method to try prior to conventional medicine is naturopathic medicine.
Naturopathic medicine is an alternative medicine that focuses on providing a holistic approach to treating health problems. It often emphasizes diet, exercise, and stress management.
“Nutrition is most important and since people who suffer from depression often have more inflammation, it might be helpful to try an anti-inflammatory diet or begin meal planning to avoid inflammatory foods,” said Dr. Garvin. “Creating a schedule and getting in as much exercise as you can even if it’s at home are some other important foundations that might help with seasonal depression.”
Although in Arizona, daylight is not so easy to escape throughout the summer, some ways to cope with SAD include seeking counseling and therapy, preparing nutrient-dense meals, and exercising.
“I think that it can be proactive to find a therapist that you can talk to and schedule those days prior if you know you struggle with SAD,” said Dr. Garvin. “However, if it’s your first time struggling with SAD, I think finding someone you can trust and asking them to hold you accountable for certain things such as making sure you’re getting your exercise in is really helpful.”
SAD is often difficult to work with and can be a real struggle. If you find yourself having trouble or experiencing severe symptoms, it is important you talk with your physician and seek professional help.