Why Spring Depression and Anxiety?

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Although American poet T. S. Eliot didn’t have an advanced psychology degree, I think he nailed the reasons why so many people get depressed and anxious in the spring in his classic poem, “The Waste Land.” He writes, “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”

I just spent the afternoon on discussion boards of several health websites reading about all the different reasons people are suddenly, surprisingly, knocked to their knees with anxiety and depression come the first weeks of spring. As one guy said, he made it through one of the most brutal Chicago winters he had ever endured with no symptoms of depression, only to find himself an anxious mess once the snow melted.

Why can good weather bring on bad moods?

Change. For starters, it’s change. While some human beings thrive on unsteady ground, most of us fear movement of any kind. All change — even the good and healthy change we need and pursue — brings with it an element of anxiety. That’s especially the case for highly sensitive folks among us who are easily prone to anxiety and depression. “Breeding lilacs out of the dead land,” requires an element of adjustment, and adjustment isn’t always easy.

HormonesJust as the lack of sunlight may alter brain levels of certain mood-controlling chemicals — such as the hormone melatonin — in November, the same moody chemicals and their messengers get confused when the light comes out in the spring. In fact, ten percent of people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) experience symptoms in reverse: Once the weather turns warm, they grow melancholy. Any shift in our circadian rhythm — a 24-hour cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, eat, work, and take a phone call from our parents — can produce feelings of anxiety.

Memories. “Mixing memory and desire,” as Eliot writes, can be a hazardous activity. I think we do that in April because the spring months hold so many milestones, like graduations and weddings. We look back with nostalgia or regret or with unfulfilled dreams and desires. This season of rebirth prods us to keep moving … maybe too quickly. Perhaps we’re not ready yet.

Allergies and toxins. Thank God that Eliot lived a century before us, because his April would have been even crueler if he were to confront all the environmental toxins and allergies we have going on today. I used to think that I didn’t suffer from spring allergies because my symptoms don’t involve sniffles and purple eyes. However, one trip to a functional doctor educated me on what different kinds of allergies can do to your mood. If you are sensitive to environmental toxins — and the majority of us are — you may very well have a harder time in the spring because the blowing winds and warmer temperatures can kick up a ton of irritants that, in turn, cause inflammation in your brain and bad moods.

Published originally on Sanity Break.

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5 thoughts on “Why Spring Depression and Anxiety?

  1. I didn’t realise T.S.Eliot was American. I always thought the miserable bastard was English or Irish 😉 I stand corrected!

  2. Hi Therese,

    Enjoyed your posts.

    Unfortunately, EMDR has not been found to be a legitimate therapy for depression. Tapping has shown much stronger promise. Can you provide your source for results? TMS has only a 20-25 percent success rate. Plus, it’s very costly.

    What are your thoughts on Nardil and other MOAI’s? SSRI’s are big pharmaceuticals meal ticket. Placebos have been proven to have better results. Older drugs are much more effective, yet, have more side effects.

    Andrew

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  4. For decades I experienced spring and summer disruption in my mental health and doctors dismissed me. Every year I breathed a sigh of relief when September arrived. It just goes to show that while doctors can be a great help, only we know our own minds intimately.
    Now I work in August as in fact it’s quite relaxed with many people away. I’d hate having to travel on holiday in August. I save my holidays for September and October.

  5. In my country, spring starts in September. I’ve struggled with spring depression since I can remember. I can’t explain it but it’s mostly the sensation that comes with “nice” weather that I feel like everybody is enjoying themselves and hanging out and having fun and I’m lonely, single, with no friends and nothing to live for really.

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