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International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS) | Volume VI, Issue VIII, August 2022 | ISSN 2454–6186

Desert Seasonal Affective Disorder Exist? Environmental factors associated with anxiety, depression, and their comorbid symptoms among women in Northern Kenya.

Gladys K. Mwangi Ph.D.
Department of Psychology, Johnson County Community College, Kansas, USA.

IJRISS Call for paper

Abstract: This paper examines the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), that exist in harsh and desert like conditions in Northern Kenya. These symptoms were identified and discussed during thematic, narrative group discussions that were conducted for a dissertation study with women living in Northern Kenya. The symptoms seemed to align well with those of SAD, which are characteristic of a recurrent major depressive disorder (MDD) with a seasonal pattern usually beginning in fall and continuing into winter months in countries in the Northern hemisphere that are further away from the equator. Previous research has shown that SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer, which the symptoms include sad mood and low energy. Those most at risk of this disorder are younger females, living far from the equator, and have family histories of depression, bipolar disorder, or SAD. During the narrative sessions, symptoms like SAD were noted during drought seasons. However, the criteria for diagnosis of those at risk of this disorder excludes the women or people living closer or at the equator.

Keywords: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), women, Northern Kenya, comorbid anxiety, and depression.


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also indicated to as major depressive disorder (MDD), with a seasonal pattern. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, 2013), SAD is the criteria for depression with a seasonal pattern that includes having depression that begins and ends during a specific season every year (with full remittance during other seasons), for at least two years and having more seasons of depression than seasons without depression over a lifetime (DSM-5, 2013). Mood changes are typically manifest when seasons begin and when they end. It is normal for people to experience changes in mood at numerous times of the year, however, with SAD, people begin to feel intense sadness, when days begin to get shorter in the fall and winter and begin to feel better in the spring with long daylight hours (Melrose, 2015).
Studies have shown that people with seasonal affective disorder have difficulty regulating the neurotransmitter serotonin, a neurotransmitter believed to be responsible for balancing mood (Mc Mahon, Andersen, Madsen, et al., 2014).