Central Texas experts explain how extreme heat can affect mental health

Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 4:37 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - According to the American Psychiatric Association, extremely hot temperatures can cause irritability and symptoms of depression. This time of year can cause what’s called “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD) for some people.

When we think of SAD, seasonal depression in the winter often comes to mind. Although SAD in the summer isn’t as common, licensed mental health professional Rachel Mims said the heat can change your mood and even start to affect your daily responsibilities.

”In the summertime, especially here in Texas we have high heat which can make us feel very drained,” said Mims, who works with veterans at the Veterans One Stop.

Mims said these hot days in the summer can sometimes lead to feelings of loneliness.

”We can see in the summer time some increased isolation because it’s so hot and people don’t want to go outside,” Mims said.

A recent study from Boston University found that across the country days of extreme heat saw increased rates of mental health–related trips to the emergency room.

These longer summer days can add extra pressure to get more done during the day.

”We are awake during the daylight hours and that is when our activity usually takes place,” Mims said. “We have this idea that we need to do more and be active for longer periods of time.”

If left untreated, licensed mental health professional Dr. Kristy Donaldson said people can experience feelings of sluggishness and have difficulty concentrating. Dr. Donaldson is the owner of Premier Neurofeedback Counseling Services.

”You’re looking at more troubled sleeping, poor appetite leading to weight loss, restlessness and agitation and anxiety and even episodes of violent behavior,” Donaldson said.

Anyone showing symptoms of SAD is encouraged to speak with their doctor.

Mental health experts gave the following tips to avoid seasonal affective disorder in the summer:

  • Make a sleep schedule and stick with it
  • Implement self care activities into your daily routine
  • Look at exercising more, specifically indoors