Extreme heat can take a toll on your mental health

Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 10:09 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -Sunday was the hottest day of the year, clocking in at 105 in Jackson. The extreme heat trend raises red flags for many of us physically. But doctors explain it can also take a mental toll.

Getting in your car and seeing temperatures in the triple digits while juggling everyday stresses can be a lot and as Dr. Jennifer Bryan explains, it’s not just for those already dealing with a diagnosed mental illness.

“It can hamper your ability to deal with other distractors, other people’s feelings or emotions,” said Bryan, President-Elect of the Mississippi State Medical Association. “So it’s just a check, a gut check. We’re all a little irritable right now. We will get through this. So it’s our perspective on the heat.”

Dr. Katherine Pannel says as a psychiatrist, it’s not uncommon to see an increase in calls when the temps stay high for so long. Even simple things have a domino effect.

“Sleep is the foundation for everything physical and mental health, and when we don’t sleep, that adds up, and we become very irritable, anxious, angry and also have a very low mood,” Pannel, Medical Director of Right Track Medical Group.

Pannel says it can cause particular issues for those with depression or anxiety.

“Serotonin is kind of like the controller of our mood. And when it’s low, already, the added heat just makes it lower and therefore compounds those conditions.”

Another potential problem is the effectiveness of medications.

“Like those suffering from schizophrenia, which, when they do take this medication, it affects their ability to thermo regulate, or basically it affects their ability to understand when they’re getting too hot, or getting too overheated,” explained Pannel. “So it can be more dangerous for them.”

If you’re not dealing with a diagnosis and the heat’s messing with your mood.

“I think it’s just being aware this can affect us,” added Bryan. “Find the things that you know to help give you an outlet because you’re going to be sitting around your living room with all your friends and family, trying to stay cool, and at times, too much togetherness can also cause some additional strain.”

Dr. Bryan suggests looking for indoor outlets for that pent-up stress, and remember that this is only temporary.

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