Surprising Mental Health Disorders that Peak During the Spring

By Jacquelyn Buffo, MS, LPC, CAADC

May 04, 2021

Seasonal Depression

It is not uncommon for certain mental health disorders to peak during various parts of the year. Many of us think of seasonal affective disorder, SAD, as a disorder that usually occurs at the end of fall and throughout the winter months due to the weather change and lack of sunlight. It may be surprising to learn that SAD can also present during the spring time. Also, several other mental health disorders are more prominent during the spring season.

Spring and Mental Health

When we think of spring, many of us envision trees blooming and the sweet sound of birds chirping. During the spring, the sun’s rays warm our skin while we take in the smell of fresh-cut grass and blossoming flowers. The extra hours of sunlight and the ability to go outside can do wonders for our souls and improve our moods. For many people, though, spring warrants a vulnerable time for their mental health. The change in seasons can cause a decline in their mental health and mood.

What Mental Health Disorders Peak during the Spring?

Researchers have discovered that suicide and certain mood disorders such as mania and seasonal affective disorder seem to peak during the spring months. The underlying causes why people are more vulnerable to these mental illnesses during the spring remain largely unknown.

Mania

Mania is a component of the mood disorder called bipolar disorder. Mania is classified as a change in mood and behavior, lasting at least a week, resulting in significant dysfunction in a person’s life. Common characteristics of mania can include:

  • Fast speech
  • Decrease need for sleep
  • An increase in talkativeness
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Becoming easily irritated
  • An increase in goal-directed behavior
  • Impulsivity
  • Grandiosity or feeling as if you are capable of unrealistic things or better than others

Suicide

Studies have consistently shown that suicide rates increase during the spring and into the summer months. For example, in 2016, studies have revealed that the daily average of suicides was around 110. However, during April, that number increased to 127 a day. Suicide is an unfortunate public health concern, and it is a leading cause of death across the country.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD is a mental health disorder caused by seasonal changes. Most people think of SAD occurring during the fall and winter months. However, for about 10% of people diagnosed with SAD, SAD occurs during the spring and summer months. Symptoms of SAD are similar to major depressive disorder. However, the symptoms only occur during certain times of the year. Common symptoms of SAD include:

  • Loss of energy
  • Lack of enjoyment in things that were once enjoyable
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling down or depressed
  • Weight gain due to craving carbohydrates

Why Do These Mental Health Disorders Occur During the Spring?

It is still unclear why these particular mental health disorders result from the changes in season from winter to spring. Researchers have many theories. However, much is still unknown. One theory stipulates that during spring, increased sunlight can impact a person’s circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm represents our physical, mental, and biological response in a 24-hour period, responsible for hormone production and our sleep cycle. Researchers theorize that the change in our circadian rhythm because of the time change in the spring may impact our mood and mental health.

Another theory is that spring elicits high levels of allergens, including pollen. Studies are beginning to show a connection between heightened levels of allergens and increased mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

What You Can Do

If you notice a change in your mood or mental health during the spring, you are not alone. It is crucial to know that treatment for your mental health or mood disorder is available. Receiving help has never been easier or more accessible than it is today. With the stroke of a few keys and within the comfort of your own home, you can receive help in the form of doctor’s visits and therapy sessions. With the emergence of telehealth services, receiving the care you need is right at your fingertips.

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Your doctor can provide you with a referral to a mental health treatment provider suitable to your unique needs. If you are thinking about medication or already have a prescription but are struggling with affording your medication, WellRx can help. WellRx offers prescription savings of up to 80%. By downloading our free prescription savings card, you can take advantage of prescription savings costs in pharmacies near you.

Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2837087/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493168/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/behind-the-spring-suicide-peak-11555673400

https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/seasonal-affective-disorder/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5900367/

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