April Is the Cruelest Month: Why Do People Get Depressed and Anxious in the Spring?



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 Wasteland.” 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 depression and anxiety 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?


For starters, it’s change. While some human beings thrive on unsteady ground, most of us fear movement. 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.


Just 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.


“Mixing memories and desires,” 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 just not ready to.

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 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.

image credit: en.wikipeida.org.

Originally published on Sanity Break.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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3 Responses
  1. Shanti

    We need to take inventory of what we truly want from life. We are connected to so many thing we don’t need. We collect friends on FB we don’t need. We leave few lines of encouragement to people we don’t know afraid of breaking house rules & be blocked out. Yet we are so afraid to speak openly to peope who matter & love us the most?
    Yes, we are hurting. Do we live our life burying our head in the sand & grovel? Comforting our wounds & feeding the voices in our head? We need to stop feeding the monsters in our head. It’s Depression just like any other illness. Let’s kick it out in by the end of April.


    1. Johnny Finger

      Monsters in your head? That’s very interesting. I don’t have any monsters in my head. I have gray matter. Why don’t you take two aspirins and go to bed?

  2. Mark Weiler

    thank you, thank you, thank you. since this last September, i thought i had it “beat”. i was feeling better than i had in a very, very long time until recently. this explains so much and has helped a very confused man.