Dr Obuaya on antidepressants and heat intolerance for Stylist Magazine

Dr Chi-Chi Obuaya, a consultant psychiatrist at Nightingale Hospital, recently discussed the link between antidepressants and heat intolerance in a new article for Stylist Magazine. 

The article explores whether antidepressants have the potential to affect our ability to deal with heat, putting some at a greater risk of heat stroke.

Writer Lauren Geall said:

“As someone who writes a lot about mental health and also happens to take antidepressants, I was certainly intrigued. I’d always known certain selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) could affect the way the body handles heat; hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) is one of the side effects listed as ‘common or very common’ for all SSRIs on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence website.  

I’ve experienced it myself, too. Since I started taking SSRIs over five years ago, I’ve become used to wiping sweat off of my top lip on a regular basis. But what I hadn’t considered was whether my medication could put me at increased risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke – so I decided to ask the experts to give me the lowdown.”

In response, Dr Chi-Chi Obuaya stated:

“There is some anecdotal evidence that antidepressants can affect heat tolerance, but the reasons for this are not fully understood.” 

“What we know is that different types of antidepressants [such as SSRIs and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors)] influence different chemical messengers called neurotransmitters – the main ones are noradrenaline/norepinephrine, dopamine and, predominantly, serotonin – and the heat intolerance some people experience is most likely caused by a complex interplay between these.” 

“Basically, it’s not fully known whether antidepressants can increase your risk of developing heat stroke or exhaustion – but some experts do believe the chemical impact antidepressants have on the brain could potentially interfere with the part of the brain that controls temperature regulation, known as the hypothalamus.

Other types of psychiatric medication – including antipsychotics and benzodiazepines – have also been linked to decreased heat intolerance, although the reason why this happens differs slightly from antidepressants; for example, antipsychotics can actually inhibit sweating and therefore make it harder for the body to eliminate heat,” Geall writes.

You can read the full article on Stylist.

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