Summer Anxiety? Why You Can Feel More Anxious In The Summer
Summer anxiety? Feel more anxious in the summer? You aren’t alone. Research has found that many find their anxiety worse in the summer and hot temperatures.
An online poll we conducted found similar results, where 73 percent of respondents said they have more anxiety and symptoms during the summer.
There are both biological and behavioral reasons for this. This article gives you 10 Reasons Why You Can Feel More Anxious During The Summer.
Why am I more anxious in the summer?
Summer is often a time of fun in the sun, hanging out with family or friends, days at the lake and on the beach, camping and RVing, and overall good times. Summer can also be a time of increased anxiety and symptoms for some people, which can put a serious damper on summer fun.
Does summer cause an increase in anxiety and symptoms?
Yes, there is such a thing as summer anxiety. Many people find their anxiety worse in summer. It’s partly due to anxiety and warm weather and anxiety and hot temperature. Research confirms that there is a connection between anxiety and heat.
Summer anxiety is often also called seasonal anxiety, heat intolerance anxiety, or seasonal affective disorder and anxiety.
1. Warm temperatures can aggravate anxiety and its symptoms
Being exposed to hot temperatures can cause both an increase in anxiety-like symptoms and anxiety and its symptoms for some people. Here’s why:
The body keeps its temperature within a narrow range: between 97º F to 99º F (36.1ºC to 37.2º C). Even though this temperature will change depending on what you are doing, it typically stays within the “normal” range.
Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature falls below the normal range (95º F and lower). Hyperthermia occurs when the body’s core temperature rises above the normal range (99.5º F and above). Hypothermia and hyperthermia can cause symptoms. If these conditions are prolonged, they can cause physical and mental health problems, including death.
Hot summer temperatures bring the risk of hyperthermia. For instance, if the body is exposed to hot temperatures for 30 minutes or more, it can undergo many physiological changes, including:
- Activation of the body’s HPA-axis (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis) which triggers the stress response as a way of coping with hot temperatures.
- An increase in metabolism.
- An increase in heart rate.
- An increase in respiration.
- An increase in perspiration in an attempt to cool the body.
- Suppressed perspiration the longer the body is overheated.
- A reduction in body fluids, such as water and electrolytes, due to sweating. A reduction in fluid means there is less available to deliver nutrients, clear out waste, lubricate joints, and cool the body.
- A drop in blood pressure due to the above.
- Blood is shunted to the skin so that it can cool. To accomplish this shunting action, blood vessels in the extremities dilate whereas others (muscles, brain, digestive system, other organs, etc.) are constricted. This shunting action can cause blood to pool in the fingers, toes, and ankles, referred to as Edema.
- A rise in core temperature.
- A reduction in blood flow to the brain due to the shunting of blood and a drop in blood pressure.
- Increased blood sugar (glucose), with an increase in insulin.
To name a few.
Hyperthermia can cause many symptoms, as well as aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, including:
- Nervous system stimulation
- Dizziness, lightheadedness
- Headache, migraine headaches
- Muscle tension and cramping
- Increased heart rate, palpitations
- Inability to concentrate
- Inability to regulate anxiety
- Slurred speech
- Feeling flushed
- Shakiness, trembling
- Eye strain, pain
- Feeling faint, feel like passing out, passing out
- Breathlessness, rapid breathing
- Increase in anxious thoughts with a reduced ability to contain them
If you worry about these types of symptoms, that worry can increase anxiety and its symptoms.
High humidity can compound this problem. High humidity prevents the body from sweating and cooling, which can further increase core temperature.
Hot temperatures alone can cause a dramatic increase in anxiety and anxiety-like symptoms.
2. Stress hormones rise with summer temperatures
In addition to all of the changes hot temperatures can cause, research has found that warm temperatures also cause a rise in stress hormones.
Researchers from Poznan University of Medical Sciences in Poland found that cortisol levels are higher during the summer months than in the winter months. This research contradicts previous research that suggested stress hormones were higher in the winter months due to the taxing physical toll of winter.
Higher stress hormones can cause an increase in anxious thinking and symptoms because of how stress hormones affect the fear center of the brain (amygdala and others). Recovery Support members can read more about how stress affects brain function in the “Hyperstimulation And Its Effects” section in Chapter 14.
Furthermore, since anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress, and stress adversely affects the nervous system, elevated stress hormones can stir up the nervous system, causing anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.
3. Fear Of Missing Out
The Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is the fear that others are having a rewarding experience that you might be missing out on. FOMO has become much more prevalent in the last decade due to the advent of social media. Now, more than ever, you can see what others are doing and compare that with your activities.
The intensity of FOMO increases during the summer months because people have more opportunity to get together for summer activities and fun.
If you have a fear of missing out, summer can heighten this anxiety, and along with it, anxiety symptoms.
4. Sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation can also cause an increase in anxiety and anxiety symptoms. As sleep length is shortened, cortisol levels increase overall as the body tries to compensate for the lack of good sleep.
Summer sleep deprivation is often caused by late nights as people party later, and by longer exposure to the sun and its influence on the body’s ability to sleep.
5. Increased recreational drug use
An increase in partying often accompanies warm temperatures. An increase in recreational drug use (such as alcohol) can cause problems with good sleep and nervous system stimulation. Both of which can cause an increase in anxiety and its symptoms.
6. Vacation anxiety
Some people become anxious about planning and going on vacation. Vacation anxiety disorder is a phrase commonly used to describe this.
Most vacations happen during the summer months due to the weather and children being out of school. If you are anxious about planning the “perfect” getaway, or anxious about going on a vacation, these can cause an increase in anxiety and its symptoms.
7. Weather and anxiety
Warm temperatures bring the potential for severe storms. If summer storms worry you, your anxiety will increase, and along with it, anxiety symptoms. Being worried about weather events is often referred to as weather anxiety disorder.
8. Summer school anxiety
For some people, summer means summer school. Those who are anxious in school, or are anxious about their teachers, summer school can cause an increase in anxiety and its symptoms.
9. Camping anxiety
Summer is also a great time to go camping and RVing. But camping and RVing can be associated with anxiety if you are anxious about making plans, anxious about traveling, or anxious about how things will go on your camping or RV trip.
Planning, packing, and traveling can be fun, but they do stress the body. An increase in stress can cause an increase in anxiety and its symptoms.
Furthermore, if being around insects, such as spiders, ants, wasps, and bees make you nervous, being outdoors more can increase your anxiety and its symptoms.
10. Fear of wild animals
Summer is also a time to get into the great outdoors. While spending time in nature can reduce stress and anxiety, it can increase them if you are fearful of encountering wild animals, such as bears, cougars, or other predatory animals.
These are just ten ways summertime can increase anxiety and its symptoms.
Your chances of experiencing an increase in anxiety and its symptoms during the summer increase with these risk factors:
- If you are an anxious person with unresolved anxiety issues.
- Summer heat and activities in the heat can aggravate your anxiety.
- If you’ve been under a lot of stress lately. Stress can cause an increase in anxiety and its symptoms since anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress.
- If your body is already hyperstimulated (chronically stressed). Summer heat and activities can aggravate hyperstimulation and its symptoms.
- If you have no way to escape the hot temperatures.
- If you are 65 years of age or older, your body is less tolerant of stress, including heat-caused stress.
- Exertion in hot weather.
- Strenuous physical workout or activity.
- Certain medications can block the body’s ability to manage heat, such as vasoconstrictors, blood pressure medications, diuretics, and antidepressants or antipsychotics. Stimulants can also increase vulnerability to hot temperatures.
- Certain medical conditions can make you more sensitive to exposure to heat.
If you are at risk of developing summer anxiety, here are some ways to prevent an increase in anxiety and its symptoms during the summer. For instance:
- Dress in cool, loose-fitting, and light-colored clothing.
- Limit your time in the sun.
- Drink plenty of fluids even though you might not feel thirsty.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which dehydrate.
- Take extra precautions with your medication, such as spending less time outdoors on warmer days, spending less time in the sun, and ensuring you have access to a cooler environment when needed.
- Plan regular intervals in a cool environment.
- Avoid hot environments or make sure you have access to air-conditioning to escape the heat.
- Keep your activities to a minimum during the warmest part of the day.
- Get regular good sleep.
- Practice a daily deep relaxation routine to manage stress.
- Be realistic about the activities you participate in during the warmer hours of the day.
- Stay inside during the hottest part of the day.
- Avoid outside chores during the hottest part of the day.
- Contain your anxiousness to prevent anxiety from escalating.
- Avoid recreational drug use.
- Work with a therapist to manage your anxiety, including worries about storms, bugs, and wild animals.
- Set realistic expectations about holidays, and summer in general.
- Keep your stress in a healthy range.
- Check on loved ones who don’t have access to a cooler environment.
Summer anxiety frequently asked questions
Can heat cause anxiety?
Yes! Research has found a link between anxiety and hot temperatures. Research has found that heat causes an increase in stress hormones. This increase can cause an increase in anxiety and symptoms. You can read about the many reasons for this under the question 10 Most Common Reasons Why You Can Feel More Anxious In The Summer.
Can heat trigger anxiety?
Yes, heat can trigger anxiety. Hot temperatures cause an increase in stress hormones, which can cause an increase in the feelings and symptoms of anxiety. If you are worried about anxiety feelings and symptoms, that worry can compound a problematic anxiety.
You can read more about that under the question 10 Most Common Reasons Why You Can Feel More Anxious In The Summer.
Can weather affect anxiety?
Yes, for some people, especially those who are already overly anxious. There are two main reasons.
- Hot temperatures can increase stress hormones, and the feelings and symptoms of anxiety.
- Adverse weather events, such as intense thunder storms, strong winds, hail, and tornados can cause an increase in anxiety for those who worry about adverse weather events.
Can humidity cause an increase in anxiety?
Yes, according to research, both heat and humidity can cause an increase in anxiety. High humidity prevents the body from cooling via sweating. As the body’s core temperature increases, we can feel more anxious due to increasing core temperature. You can read more about that under the question 10 Most Common Reasons Why You Can Feel More Anxious In The Summer.
Can heat cause anxiety attacks?
Yes! Just as heat can cause an increase in anxiety, it can also cause high degree episodes of anxiety, which are anxiety attacks. You can read more about that under the question 10 Most Common Reasons Why You Can Feel More Anxious In The Summer, and under anxiety and panic attacks symptoms article.
What’s the connection between anxiety and heat sensitivity?
There is a two-fold connection between anxiety and heat sensitivity. First, heat can increase the feelings and symptoms of anxiety. Second, a person who is anxious can be more sensitive to heat. We explain why anxiety can increase our sensory perceptions in the stress response and stress-response hyperstimulation articles.
Is there such a thing as summer anxiety?
Yes, there is something called summer anxiety. That’s because many people have found, which research confirms, their anxiety and symptoms increase during the summer months. You can read more about summer anxiety under the question 10 Most Common Reasons Why You Can Feel More Anxious In The Summer.
Summer is a great time to enjoy all that life has to offer. We hope you do and without the bother of an increase in anxiety or its symptoms!
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.
- For a comprehensive list of Anxiety Disorders Symptoms Signs, Types, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment.
- Anxiety and panic attacks symptoms can be powerful experiences. Find out what they are and how to stop them.
- How to stop an anxiety attack and panic.
- Free online anxiety tests to screen for anxiety. Two minute tests with instant results. Such as:
- Anxiety 101 is a summarized description of anxiety, anxiety disorder, and how to overcome it.
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2. “Pictures: What Can Heat Do to Your Body?” WebMD, WebMD, 2019.
3. Harvard Health Publishing. “Heat Stroke (Hyperthermia).” Harvard Health, 2019.
4. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health. “Hot Environments - Health Effects and First Aid.” Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 28 July 2019.
5. Faure, C. et al. "Impaired glucose tolerance after brief heat exposure: a randomized crossover study in healthy young men." Clinical Science (London), 1 June 2016.
6. “Heatstroke.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 15 Aug. 2017.
7. Xiong, Jing, et al. "Effects of temperature steps on human health and thermal comfort." Building and Environment, Dec. 2015.
8. Ansari, M & Mazloumi, Adel & Abbassinia, M & Farhang Dehghan, Somayeh & Golbabaei, Farideh. (2014). Heat stress and its impact on the workers’ cortisol concentration: A case study in a metal melding industry. Journal of Health and Safety at Work. 4. 59-6
9. K. Vangelova, et al. "The effect of heat exposure on cortisol and catecholamine excretion rates in workers in glass manufacturing unit." Central European Journal of Public Health, Dec. 2002.
10. American Physiological Society. "Stress hormones spike as the temperature rises: Study surprisingly finds higher cortisol levels in summer than in winter." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 April 2018.
11. Valerio Zerbi et al. "Rapid Reconfiguration of the Functional Connectome after Chemogenetic Locus Coeruleus Activation." Neuron (2019).
12. Franchina, Vittoria, et al. "Fear of Missing Out as a Predictor of Problematic Social Media Use and Phubbing Behavior among Flemish Adolescents." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15 Oct. 2018.
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