Heat and Mental Health – Hot Summers and Depression

Dallas is hot. Most of next week is expected to be 95 degrees and humid, all with essentially no wind to help cool us down.

Many people are familiar with a condition known as “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” It’s a type of depression that occurs primarily in winter, when a person has less access to sunlight. We know that colder, darker days are capable of causing depression. But we don’t often talk about depression that occurs in the summer as a result of summer-related issues.

Sun itself is not linked to depression. If anything, sun helps to treat it. But heat can absolutely cause depression-related symptoms, and it is useful to be aware of what these issues may be so that you can help prevent and protect yourself from them in the future.

How Does Heat Affect Depression?

Heat can cause many different issues that can all affect or contribute to depression. On especially hot days, a person may struggle with any or all of the following:

  • Heat Related Sleep Disturbances – It can be very difficult to get a comfortable and restful night’s sleep when it’s hot inside of your home, or when you’re sunburned or otherwise affected by the heat. But poor sleep can contribute to and even develop depressive symptoms.
  • Irritability and Distress – Numerous studies have shown that hot days increase mood swings and cause irritability. They also cause the body stress, which in turn can translate into psychological stress such as anxiety and depression.
  • Cognitive Impairment – Heat can cause people to not think clearly, or struggle with their decision making. This, in turn, can lead to issues that contribute to the development of depression.
  • Self-Esteem Challenges – Hot days are when there are more people out and about in bathing suits or hiking or taking vacations. These can trigger issues in people with low self-esteem, or those that feel envy over others living this type of life.

Heat can also cause people to stay indoors more, which can contribute to further feelings of depression – especially if you expected to be more active in the summer months.

Cooling Down and Staying Emotionally Healthy

We can’t make Dallas any less hot. But we can be at least aware of how heat affects us on a psychological level. That way, if we do feel like heat is bringing out depressive symptoms, we can acknowledge those emotions and then do what we can to cool down and remain emotionally and psychologically healthy.

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