Spring Depression? Is that a real thing?

Ahhh yes…spring. That wonderful time of year when the days get longer, the weather gets warmer, and for some of us, our depression and anxiety are in full bloom. Why is this? Isn’t the most difficult time of year for anxiety and depression in the winter?
For some yes, but believe it or not, for many, spring can be a particularly troublesome season. 

In fact, depression in the spring might be much more common than you think. A 2012 study published by the National Institute of Health, found that the spring season is when the suicide rate is at its highest. Though more research is being done to determine why this is, it is believed that just like antidepressants can increase the risk of suicide at the beginning of treatment ostensibly due to a potential increase in energy and the motivation to act on suicidal ideation- The same is true about the increased energy and motivation that can come from the sun shining brighter after the cold dark winter months. 

The exact cause of depression and anxiety in the spring months is unknown, however, there is evidence to suggest that it is related to several factors. Some of these are:

  • The overall change in weather, and changes in circadian rhythms (the internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours).
  • Allergies.
  • Change in daylight hours. 
  • Rising temperatures.
  • Exacerbated social anxiety due to the typical increase in activities during the warmer months.

Allergies can be particularly troublesome. It is not unusual for them to cause us to feel more anxious, foggy, flu-like, and even experience what feels like a resurgence or increase in depression and anxiety symptoms. Our bodies can feel depleted and depressed from hay fever, pollen, and hormones that shift, like melatonin, which can have a definite impact on our mood in the spring months. The shift in melatonin can also adversely affect our sleep-wake cycle, which can lead to fatigue, grogginess, and an overall sense of unease.

One critical way to prevent or work through spring depression and anxiety is to keep a regular appointment with a therapist. Having a support system will help carry you through these challenging months, and better prepare you for the summer months ahead.

Is there something coming up in the summer that is triggering anxiety? Do you have a family vacation, a wedding, or some other upcoming event? Whatever it is, getting a head start and talking about it with a therapist, can make a huge difference in your sense of peace and well-being, and can even help make whatever is coming up, something to look forward to and enjoy.

Another way to help ease your body and mind during the shifting seasons is to make sleep a priority. Find a reasonable bedtime, and a consistent wake-up time that works for you, and try and stick with it. If you go to bed early and have a hard time falling asleep due to the increase in daylight hours, you may want to hang room darkening curtains in your bedroom. Just be sure to open them every morning, so your brain can get that much-needed wake-up call from the sun. 
Lastly, find things to do in the warmer months that you enjoy. If you enjoy taking walks in nature and seeing the trees becoming green and the wildflowers as they bloom, do that regularly. Plan a lunch date with a friend that you feel comfortable with, talk about what’s going on, and hear about what’s going on in their life. 

The bottom line, if you feel you are more anxious and depressed in the spring, you are not alone, and there is help available. Talk to your doctor, call a friend, speak with your psychiatrist to see if your medicines need to be adjusted, and find activities, however small, that you enjoy. And if your allergies are particularly troublesome, make an appointment with an allergist, or at least invest in a neti-pot. Finally, it is important to remember that you do not need to struggle alone this spring or any season. Help is available.  

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