If you find yourself feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed because of the scorching heat, it’s not all in your head. Rise in temperature damages not only the body but also the mind.
As heatwaves become more intense, more frequent and last longer, it becomes increasingly important to address their impact on mental health, scientists say.
Dr. Joshua Wortzel, chairman of the American Psychiatric Association’s Commission on Climate Change and Mental Health, which was set up just two years ago, said, “It’s only been five It’s about a year old,” he says.
“Our understanding of the underlying biology of why this association exists is still in its infancy,” he added.
high temperature strongly related and gain of suicide, the researchers discovered.Heat is associated with increased body temperature violent crime and invasion, emergency room visit and hospitalization for mental disorderand fatalities (number) — especially among people with symptoms such as schizophreniadementia, psychosis, drug use.
Scientists estimate that for every 1 degree Celsius (or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in temperature, the temperature will rise by nearly 5%. in danger of death Among patients with psychosis, dementia, or substance use.
Researchers reported 0.7 percent. increase in suicides It is associated with an increase in temperature, with an increase in temperature of approximately 4% to 6%. interpersonal violenceinclude murder.
not only heat stimulate emotions Like frustration and anger, exacerbate mental illnessanxiety, schizophrenia, depression and more. senior citizen, youth People with pre-existing mental illness are especially vulnerable, as are those living with mental illness. no residence or less socioeconomic status.
A groundbreaking study last year analyzed data from more than two million privately insured people and found that people with mental illness are more likely to visit emergency departments. was significantly higher During the 5-6 hottest days of summer compared to the coolest days of the same season.
The increase in the northern United States was larger, perhaps because those regions are less prepared to handle heatwaves than places like the Southwest, says Amruta Nori, an environmental epidemiologist at the Boston University School of Public Health. Mr. Salma said. study.
This gap was evident across a range of mental health conditions, including mood and anxiety disorders, stress disorders, schizophrenia, substance use disorders, and self-harm. “Extreme heat is an external stressor that appears to exacerbate mental health symptoms in people,” says Dr. Nori Salma.
The impact is likely to be even more pronounced among people with limited or no insurance coverage or those who are homeless, he added.
Scientists make various suggestions biological explanation On the relationship between temperature rise and mental health disorders. At least some of these illnesses may have simple causes. confused sleepy.
For a comfortable rest, the room temperature should be below 68 degrees.On warm nights people go to sleep later And waking up early in the morning reduces the quality of sleep.
Sleeping in a room that’s too warm for days or weeks can not only exacerbate chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, but it can also harm it. mental disorder, suicide risk, memory, mood and cognitive function.
Older people and women are more likely to be affected. One study found that sleep deprivation in older people is about twice as high as in younger people.
Some mental health problems can be an extension of physical problems. On a recent afternoon, Dr. Asim Shah, a psychiatrist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, found that nearly every patient’s pulse or heart rate was higher than it was three months ago.
“Elevated heart rate can increase anxiety,” Dr. Shah says. “So, heat causes a lot of physical changes that lead to emotional and mental changes.”
A neurotransmitter associated with mood, anxiety and depression, serotonin also regulates the body’s ability to sense temperature. Increased sunlight and heat increase serotonin levels, which can lead to mood swings, aggression, and irritability. A variety of widely used medications, including antibiotics, beta-blockers, some antidepressants, and antihistamines, also affect the body’s ability to sense and regulate body temperature.
medicine It is prescribed for schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder. widely used lithium, impairs the body’s ability to sweat and cool. According to Shah, extreme heat and sweating can concentrate lithium levels in the body to toxic levels, causing serious physical and mental problems and even death.
“We need to prepare for patients taking these drugs that interact with sunlight,” he added. ‘Doctors need to be more aware’
other drugs quench your thirst And it can lead to dangerous levels of dehydration. Alcohol, caffeine, and some drugs that increase urine output can also cause dehydration, mental problems, and confusion.
According to Dr. Wurtzel, there are also indirect ways that high temperatures can affect mental health. Some crops absorb less zinc, iron and other micronutrients in hot climates. Deficiencies in these nutrients can lead to psychiatric effects, including neurodevelopmental disorders.
Rising temperatures are increasing the reach of disease vectors such as ticks that carry pathogens that can cause psychiatric and neurological symptoms. Heat also increases allergens and pollutants and worsens air quality, which alone can trigger anxiety and depression.
Heat is just one aspect of climate change, and its direct impact on mental health can be hard to get out of the feeling of a greater existential threat.
Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that rising temperatures, displacement, hunger, economic and social loss would lead to deep anxiety, grief and stress. Children, adolescents, the elderly and those with chronic health problems are particularly vulnerable, the report warns.
“Heat can have a very serious effect,” says Dr. Robert Bright, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic. This summer, Dr. Bright’s hometown of Phoenix saw a record 31 days in a row of temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
“People are very overwhelmed and worried about this,” he added.
Scientists coined the term “climate affliction” to describe the range of emotions such as anxiety, fear, sadness, shame, and guilt caused by environmental changes that appear around us. People who already have anxiety or depression may find it even harder to cope.
“Unfortunately, it’s true that this could be the coolest summer of our lives, but the thought of it makes me uneasy,” said Britt Ray, director of the Program on Climate Change and Mental Health at Stanford University. will be,’ he said.
People often turn to cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication, or other strategies to deal with difficult emotions. But “when it comes to the climate crisis, these interventions fail because the threat is real,” she said. It’s not just a matter of perception.
By planning for longer hot days, local governments can help people feel less vulnerable and more empowered. Authorities can provide information about the nearest cooling room for people who do not have air conditioning in their homes.
Dr. Ray said connecting with others with similar afflictions and taking action at various levels to prevent the worst consequences can also help reduce the pain of climate change.
“In Phoenix, Arizona, people are dying from just falling on the sidewalk and getting third-degree burns,” she noted. “That’s what nightmares are made of.”