Are you getting tired of the hot weather? It’s been pretty relentless; On July 6 The New York Times reported about 70 million people in the U.S. were under heat advisories or warnings. I’m sure you’ve seen the cautions about dehydration, heat exhaustion, and so forth. But you can be sitting in the shade with your glass of lemonade and still feel crummy. Why?
Basically, our bodies perceive high temperatures as an existential threat. “As temperatures rise, we can become more emotional and angrier,” says Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and creator of Mental Drive. “But only as we move from relative comfort to relative discomfort. As we become more physically uncomfortable, our ability to manage our emotions is diminished.”
One way our bodies react to extreme heat is to release adrenaline and other “fight or flight” chemicals in an attempt to cope with a higher temperature. “So the hotter our bodies get, we lose our ability to manage impulses associated with that discomfort,” Dr. Klapow says. “We become more impulsive emotionally because we are focused on regulating our bodies.”
As Dr. Klapow explains, your coping abilities are mostly tied to just feeling not-so-great in your own body. “Our bodies work to adapt to the climate we’re in. As our physical environment changes—i.e., temps rise or fall—our body is working to adapt. That effort takes away from our ability to emotionally regulate. And as the environment we are in changes significantly, via heat waves or freezing temps, we are thrown into a state of having to adapt.”
There is supporting research. One 2021 meta-analysis and research review found a correlation between higher average temperatures and poor mental health outcomes. Published in the journal Environment International, the review suggested there’s a slight (2.2%) increase in mental health-related mortality per every 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit rise in temperature, and studies have found that hospital admissions and emergency-department visits for mental health conditions like anxiety, depressive disorders, schizophrenia, and others increased with high temperatures.
As the climate continues to change, hotter summers are not going away. But the next time you find yourself picking a fight on yet another hot day, you’ll be scientifically justified in blaming the heat.
Taken from “It’s Not Just You: Extreme Heat Is Making All of Us Really Cranky” by Hannah Smothers (https://www.self.com/story/why-hot-weather-makes-you-angry?).