The impact that the great heat can have on our psyche

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Heat waves continue to follow one another in Italy as well and days with temperatures well above average are becoming more and more common. There first comprehensive comprehensive assessment of heat waves, a report released in 2020 found that in nearly every part of the world, from the 1950s to the present, heat waves have increased in frequency and duration.

This is worrying, given the effect that heat has on the environment and human health. Heat, in fact, not only affects the body, it also affects the mind.

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One New York studio, for example, found that hot days are associated with an increased risk of emergency room visits for substance abuse, mood and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and dementia. Other studies show that heat is linked to lower performance in tests evaluation, to a greater risk of evaluation errors and accidents at work. It is therefore becoming clear that heat has major effects on cognition, mood and other aspects of our mental health and well-being. But why? And above all: what can we do? We asked the psychotherapist Eleonora Iacobellipresident ofEuropean Association for Panic Disorders and scientific director Bioequilibrium.

“In a period in which we already suffer from the fatigue accumulated during the year and the concern for the new peak of infections from Covid, the heat does nothing but negatively affect our
psycho-physical balance », he explains Iacobelli. “In itself, the thermal factor could be enough to increase our nervousness and our aggression, but, in addition to this, we must also keep in mind the cyclical nature of some psychic pathologies relating above all to mood states”.

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Why, what exactly happens in our brains when the heat increases?
“The heat, at the neurobiological level, affects brain cells by altering the levels of minerals and can lead to experiencing sensations of alarm and danger which, if not managed, lead to control and avoidance behaviors, in the illusion of feeling protected, but which, on the contrary, will make us feel fragile and threatened ”, explains the psychotherapist. ‘The rise in temperatures can therefore be considered a strong stress factor, capable of reducing our ability to control negative environmental stimuli and, in some circumstances, can predispose to aggressive and impulsive behaviors“.

Are there any other common consequences besides stress?
«For most people, excess heat also affects other important aspects of life such as sleepL’appetite and the concentration. This affects daily performance, including work ».

Can this constant attention to weather conditions contribute to negatively affect our mood?
«Human beings live in their depths, some more or less, emotional sensations of threat often calmed by control, by the predictability of events, by rituality. This scorching heat and the very high temperatures that we did not expect change the pattern of what “normally happens”. When we are faced with phenomena that do not follow their classic and predictable trend, a sort of negative expectation arises, a sense of threat that far outweighs the pleasant effect, as is happening this summer. To rest assured we need predictability, rituality. All changes produce alarm, resulting in responses of increased anxiety, depression, insomnia and irritability. That’s why the idea that the world is there “turning against“Is a recurring statement that is often heard, while less often it is said:”how nice, it’s hot and winter will be less harsh“. For human beings it is much more important that things happen according to forecasts, than the fact that a change could also have positive consequences ».

In general, what to do to psychologically resist the hottest days?
«Try to make a plan of the daily commitments so as to avoid having to use useless energy; then, do not burden yourself with commitments beyond your physical and mental possibilities; pay attention to dehydration as it affects not only the physical, but also the psycho-emotional state; make sure you sleep in a quiet environment, which allows for a truly re-energizing rest; Finally, avoid taking excessive amounts of exciting foods (coffee, alcohol, nicotine) since, if on the one hand they can help you increase your performance, on the other they negatively affect anxiety and nervousness, increasing them ».


Other stories of Vanity Fair that might interest you:

The worst heat wave of the summer is coming: up to 42 degrees

Sleep well: the best fans for a fresh and restful sleep

Hyperhidrosis: allied foods if you suffer from excessive sweating

Source: Vanity Fair

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