How Weather can Effect Mental Health

Weather; it has the ability to impact on so many things and as evolved as humans are, we remain at its mercy.

Aside from the impact on land, property and human life that weather may have, it also wields a more subtle influence over many people. Persons diagnosed with a mental health condition are at time more predisposed to being affected both physically and/or mentally by the weather.

The most well known example of this is depression. Rain in the majority of cases will cause depressive feelings and/or thoughts to become more prevalent; hence the expression ‘feeling blue’. However, it is not just the rain itself that causes this; it is also what the rain actually does.

Rain or snow can make the outdoors damp, cold, empty and at times unpleasant; particularly when it occurs for long periods of time. Not wanting to go outside can then lead to feeling isolated, segregated and dejected. Once a person with a mental health condition begins to experience this they can at times then escalate to feelings of claustrophobia, agoraphobia, frustration and/or anxiety.

At the other end of the spectrum we have heat, which surprisingly at first can have similar effects to that of rain. Extreme or extended periods of heat again can impact on outdoor activities, also lead to feelings of isolation, segregation and/or frustration.

In cases of extreme or extended periods of heat people can experience general discomfort, inability to sleep, lethargy, lack of appetite and dehydration. These feelings can often lead to more aggressive and/or anxious behaviours. Some medications taken for mental health conditions also have the side effect of sun sensitively further limiting outdoor activity during the summer or hot seasons.

Thunder and lightning storms undoubtedly have the ability to impact on even the everyday person. A person, who suffers from anxiety though, may experience a heightened sensation of anxiousness or fear; this is often due to the noise of the thunder or quick, bright flashes of lightning. Thunder and lightning storms are unpredictable, taking away any sense of control and/or stability that a person with anxiety has; not to mention that lightning can be life threatening.

In a lesser known and yet more widely debated example of how the weather effects mental health, the full moon is suspected to also have the ability to effect human behaviour and/or emotions. Theoretically if the moon affects the water in our oceans, so much so that it actually controls the oceans tides; then does it not stand to reason that the human body, being almost 70% water, would also be affected by the moon?

A statistical study published by Elsevier Science (USA), titled Lunar madness: An empirical study; suggests that admissions for psychosis were highest during the new moon and lowest during the full moon; however the majority of other studies available show no real correlation between the moons cycles and human behaviour. In fact long term studies of data show that there is no evidence of consistent and/or recurring patterns between the moons cycles and the human behaviour/thinking.

Personally, I have worked in the mental health and disability sector for over 13 years and have witnessed first hand the impact that weather has had on some of the people I have worked with. I myself am not diagnosed with a mental health condition and know that without a doubt the weather at times has the ability impact how I am feeling and thinking.