The infamous “haboobs” or dust storms have recently been hitting Arizona residents as part of monsoon season. While these massive walls of dust, and sometimes rain, can certainly put a damper on one’s day, can they actually affect mental health?
Experts have different opinions on whether women can suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or depression during monsoon season.
David Reiss, a psychiatrist, said in an email, SAD generally refers to a disorder that people suffer from during the winter.
“Physiologically, this is thought to be due to decreased exposure to sunlight and changes in diurnal body rhythms,” Reiss said. “There are definite studies that show that some persons who become depressed during months of decreased light respond to the use of artificial sunlamps,” Reiss said.
However, in his experience there are more cases of mood fluctuations associated with season and weather instead of “true” SAD cases. Depending on the individual and life experiences, changes in the weather can impact people psychologically, even if they don’t suffer from SAD.
“People who are generally more active and outgoing may feel a ‘let down’ in times of bad weather when activity becomes limited,” Reiss said. “This may well be a vicious cycle of a negative psychological effect . . . along with the physiological effects of less exercise, less activity, etc.”
Some people feel more socially limited and lonely during bad weather, while others enjoy having less social demands during that time, he said.
In general, people may feel unhappy or anxious during bad weather because of the possibility of being harmed. People who have actually been injured during bad weather could have very negative reactions.
However, some people who are in more supportive households and environments might focus on the “togetherness” caused by being cooped up in a house because of a storm, and the enjoyment of relief from certain duties, Reiss said.
He suggests taking care of basic needs to cope with monsoon season, like exercise, nutrition, sleep, entertainment and social support.