We all know that hot weather can make us cranky. And studies show that the hotter it is, the more violent crimes there are. But can a prolonged heat wave literally make you crazy? The answer’s “yes” – depending on how hot it is – and whether you’re mentally stable to begin with.
Researchers at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine point out that intense heat raises your risk of dehydration. And even mild dehydration can affect your brain. In fact, losing even 1 percent of your body mass – the equivalent of 3 glasses of water – increases stress and anxiety, and decreases cognitive performance. In other words, heat makes it harder to think clearly. That’s because high temperatures cause the neurons in your brain to become more excitable and over-stimulated.
Dramatic overheating can also cause heatstroke, which can lead to confusion, irritability, hallucinations, violent behavior and death. It can also lead to long-term personality changes, or even brain damage.
Women also get angrier when the weather’s hot, because they sweat less, which raises their body temperature. And calls to domestic abuse hotlines rise when the weather is hot.
So, drink plenty of water.
And check your meds. Certain drugs raise your risk for heatstroke and heat-induced insanity, because they reduce your ability to perspire. That includes drugs used to treat depression, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.