With the increase in temperature over the summer months, the question arises; Does the heat affect your mental health?
Experts say that as temperatures flare up, so do our moods and tempers, which can have adverse affects on mental health.
In Windsor, Ontario, where temperatures have hit 98 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidex close to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, the mental health unit at Windsor Regional Hospital is completely full, which Len Cortese, MD, says is common in the summer months.
"Essentially, what's occurring is that the neurotransmitters—the chemicals in the brain—are probably going off balance. When chemicals in the brain go off balance, it will cause difficulties in what the brain does," Cortese said. "And what the brain does is, it helps us with our mood, so our mood is set off. The brain helps us keep our anxiety under control so [during hot weather] people have difficulties with anxiety."
Even suicide rates are at their highest in the summer months, particularly in late July and August, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.
"During heat waves, there's an increase in suicide and there's an increase in aggressive behavior," Cortese said. "Again, it's the stress of the heat that's affecting the brain."
The heat can make you antsy, uncomfortable, cranky, and even tired, said Cortese. It's best to try and keep cool as much as you can. Try to stay out of the sun and indoors where the air conditioning can keep you cool. It is also important to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water.
If you are going outside, try to stay in the shade and protect your skin with hats and sunscreen,
Cortese says. Focus on doing things you enjoy to help keep your mood and temper under control but don't overexert yourself, cautions the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS).
When the body heats too quickly to cool itself safely, or when you lose too much fluid or salt through dehydration or sweating, your body temperature rises and heat-related illness may develop, the NWS explained in an advisory issued recently. Heat disorders share one common feature: the individual has been in the heat too long or exercised too much for his or her age and physical condition.
So remember to stay hydrated, use your sunscreen and stay cool enough to not allow the heat to affect your mental health this summer.