Record-Breaking Heat Sparks Concerns of Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder
Millions of Americans Forced Indoors as Heatwave Continues
As record-breaking heat has left the South and Southwest unbearable and unhealthy for any outdoor activity, millions of Americans have been forced to stay indoors and seek out air-conditioned places.
Psychiatric Experts Warn of Mental Health Emergency
Psychiatric experts warn that the limits placed on people’s activities will result in a major mental health emergency: summer seasonal affective disorder or SAD, which is a type of depression related to the weather, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Higher Temperatures and Disrupted Routines Increase Risk
Dr. Paul Desan, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, explains that the hotter temperatures, combined with the disruption of a normal summer routine, could make more people more depressed, agitated, and in need of professional counseling.
- Higher temperatures produce more psychological distress
- Psychiatric community has limited data and research into the issue
- Climate change will make more people susceptible
Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder was first identified by psychiatric researchers in the 80s. The majority of SAD cases that have been researched were reported in the winter when the days are shorter. Winter symptoms are associated with lethargy and a lack of energy, brought upon by decreased daylight.
- Light therapy is commonly prescribed for winter SAD
- Roughly 5% of American adults experience seasonal affective disorder
- Winter SAD more common in people who live farther from the equator
Summer SAD Brings Different Symptoms
Dr. Yalda Safai, a psychiatrist and ABC News contributor, explains that summer SAD brings about different symptoms than its winter counterpart. Depression in the forms of agitation, aggression, and more irritability are seen in patients affected by summer SAD.
Heat Dome Raises Concerns
The U.S., particularly the West, Southwest, and South, have seen record-high temperatures throughout the summer. The psychological experts say that the heat dome will likely result in a jump in summer SAD cases.
- Phoenix, Arizona, has recorded over 31 days of temperatures over 110 degrees
- Limits on activities will have short-term mental health effects
- Extra mental health effects for residents without access to cooling
Coping with Summer SAD
Dr. Desan and Dr. Safai suggest reaching out to mental health professionals for an appointment if experiencing symptoms of summer SAD. They also emphasize the need for raising awareness and rethinking the approach to mental health in the face of climate change.
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal, substance use, or other mental health crises, please call or text 988. You will reach a trained crisis counselor for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also visit 988lifeline.org.