Why the WET makes me SAD
When it rains here, it pours – sometimes for days. It’s one of the minor inconveniences of living in a sub-tropical climate.
Despite the temporary disruption to an otherwise sunny year, the rainy season from January to March is enough to keep me indoors indefinitely, seeking shelter from the wild weather.
This unnatural seclusion - in a place that boasts an average of seven hours of sunlight each day - leads to the relatively unknown condition known as waterlogged exacerbated temperament (WET). And it makes me SAD.
WET is a seasonal disorder that affects those living in rain-ravaged areas and is sometimes known as the tropics blues.
In the absence of sunshine, people can feel moody, irritable and less sociable. These symptoms are more apparent and can be more severe during the rainy season.
WET is sometimes confused with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression associated with the winter months where the days are much shorter, particularly in the northern hemisphere.
However, there are four distinctive symptoms associated with the persistent deluge which saturates sub-tropical climates such as Queensland’s Sunshine Coast:
27 January 2013: The relentless deluge.
4 common WET symptoms
1. Cabin fever
Boredom, restlessness or irritability that results from a lack of environmental stimulation due to a prolonged stay in a confined indoor area.
Lack of outdoor exercise, resulting in inactivity and sluggishness due to being confined indoors for prolonged periods.
3. Frizzy hair
Humidity can make fine, curly hair fall flat and make smooth, straight hair frizz out. This happens because the inside of your hair, known as the Cortex, is made of two kinds of protein (the Orthocortex and the Paracortex, which are sandwiched together inside your hair). When it's humid, these areas absorb water differently; one part may absorb a lot of moisture and swell a lot, while the other stays relatively unchanged. This uneven swelling causes the hair shaft to bend or twist resulting in frizzy hair.
It grows prolifically indoors in wet or moist areas lacking adequate ventilation - on walls, ceilings, bathroom tiles, carpets, coffee tables, curtains, clothes and shoes.
An interesting fact about humidity
Relative humidity is the ratio of water vapour in the air compared to the amount of water vapour the same air at the same temperature holds when it’s saturated. Therefore, if the amount of water vapour in the air remains constant and the temperature falls the relative humidity rises.
On most occasions high humidity is associated with a cool damp night, heavy dew, fog, condensation, or rainfall. Low humidity occurs when it’s hot, dry, clear, sunny, windy and evaporation is high.
It’s common on a cool night to have a relative humidity between 90-100% and to experience the lowest relative humidity at the same time as the maximum temperature occurs.
How are WET and SAD related?
It’s believed that sunlight affects some of the brain's chemicals and hormones, stimulating the hypothalamus which controls mood, appetite and sleep. The lack of light is thought to affect:
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. When it’s dark, the pineal gland produces melatonin which makes you feel sleepy. During daylight, the retina at the back of your eye converts the light into an electric impulse that travels to the hypothalamus, sending a message to the pineal gland which produces less melatonin. In the darker winter months, some people produce higher levels of melatonin, resulting in SAD symptoms such as sleepiness and low energy levels.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, sending messages between nerve cells; fewer sunlight hours means that less serotonin is produced. During the winter, serotonin levels may be lower than average, resulting in the messages between nerve cells not being transmitted effectively, causing SAD symptoms such as feeling down.
3. Circadian rhythm
Our body uses light from the sun to time biological functions and processes such as mood, sleep, appetite, digestion and energy levels. Regulation of the body's functions is known as a circadian rhythm which occurs over a 24-hour period. However, a lack of sunlight can disrupt the body's internal clock, leading to the symptoms of SAD such as depression and low energy levels.
Source: Seasonal affective disorder
The only remedy for WET is sunshine, so while we've got a reprieve I'll sit out on the deck for some natural light therapy to help dissolve those tropics blues. Sadly though, the long range weather forecast is for more rain.
Do you suffer from waterlogged exacerbated temperament?
7/3/2013 02:14:33 pm
In the supermarket carpark today at Coolum. Rather large woman walking a rather small hairy doggie and trailing a not very big man. But size has nothing to do with this story. "Oh look at those clouds," she says, "Don't tell me it's going to rain again. Oh I couldn't stand it."
8/3/2013 04:36:26 am
Yes, I agree Ilyhana. There's rain, and there's more than enough rain...we've had enough to keep us saturated for a while now.
7/3/2013 10:35:51 pm
Well my seratonin, melatonin and circadian rhythms are completely out of whack, I'm wearing an affro on my head, and as for the hypothalamus...............well I just don't wanna go there..............but hey.................I'm a Pom!!!..................we feel like that all year round!!!!!....................so I'm just loving experiencing these waterloogged conditions in a warm tropical climate.............wet weather??.........BRING IT ON
8/3/2013 04:34:08 am
So you're the one who's been doing the rain dance? Stop it!
7/3/2013 10:48:16 pm
Well researched and topical, Hari. It shows how dependent we are on the sun for our well-being, which in part explains why the ancients were big on sun gods. The other part is that nothing much grows without the sun, so they were grateful for the harvest. I suppose WET might have something to do with the term 'WET blanket, which we use to describe those who refuse to join in the manic lifestyle associated with midsummer affective disorder (MAD). The latter is, of course, the antidote to WET. It is possible to bring forward the onset of MAD by shutting the curtains to blank out the WET world, lighting your living room with powerful lights, popping on the old bikini and drinking lots of wine. Do this every third day, preferably in the company of friends, and the WET season will pass virtually unnoticed, I do hope this helps. Sincerely. P
8/3/2013 04:31:09 am
Peter, your acute observation of coastal living is on the mark! I much prefer to be manic and MAD rather than WET and SAD. I shall put your remedy into action forthwith. See you again in a few months.
7/3/2013 10:56:17 pm
Our apricot poodle hates going outside while it is raining. It is quite a challenge timimg her needs to go out with the few dry spells.
8/3/2013 04:27:08 am
I'm sure poodles don't like stepping in puddles, unlike kids who love jumping in them with or without their gumboots! I do sympathise with the big sigh, Jenny - I often do that as I watch the rain pelt down outside my windows.
8/3/2013 02:05:36 am
Hari, a good down pour can sometimes settle dust and confusion and unclog the blog!
8/3/2013 04:24:45 am
That's true, Bernie. It wasn't that long ago when everyone was asking for rain because it was too dry! I don't mind a good downpour, but enough is enough.
8/3/2013 12:35:12 pm
How about my theory about lack of sunshine & bad teeth? Could it be serotonin????
9/3/2013 06:47:34 am
Sue, I didn't come across that information during my research. Perhaps it requires further investigation?
8/3/2013 02:12:49 pm
Web feet do not look very inviting in sandals. Amalgdala could fix the seratonin etc problem. Just a matter of mind matter, it also works in the rain.
9/3/2013 06:48:24 am
B, web feet might not look good, but it would make walking in the rain more fun!
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I acknowledge the traditional Custodians of the land on which I work and live, the Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi and Joondoburri people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, the waters and sky. I pay my respect to them and their cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.