Winter- it's dark and cold. You just looked out of the window and it's snowing again. You feel tired, lazy, and you can't wait for Spring. Ah, Spring, a time of warm sunshine and blue skies, the smell of fresh grass and new flowers! You should be joyous, raring to go and do all those things you dreamed of during the long, cold winter. But you just don't feel right- you feel anxious and foggy, perhaps even depressed. Why?
There are several reasons. One is that sensitive people, especially those with biochemical imbalances in the brain that cause OCD or related disorders, may be both emotionally and physically very sensitive to changes in light. Just as in winter when too much darkness triggers off depression, Springtime daylight may trigger anxiety and irritability. This can interfere with sleeping patterns and cause insomnia, the opposite of Winter oversleeping. After enough days of not sleeping well, people can become irritable, anxious, and depressed.
Also, people with allergies can have a hard time in Spring.
I believe that the world will come to realize that depression is not just a mental disorder- it has physical components. Some scientists are stating that depression could be a kind of inflammatory response to an environmental cause besides just a psychological reaction. If so, then Springtime allergies, which cause inflammation may be the culprit. In an article in the guardian.com by Caroline Williams, titled "Is depression a kind of allergic reaction," it says, "The answer to that seems to be yes, and the best candidate so far is inflammation – a part of the immune system that acts as a burglar alarm to close wounds and call other parts of the immune system into action. A family of proteins called cytokines sets off inflammation in the body, and switches the brain into sickness mode.
Both cytokines and inflammation have been shown to rocket during depressive episodes, and – in people with bipolar – to drop off in periods of remission. Healthy people can also be temporarily put into a depressed, anxious state when given a vaccine that causes a spike in inflammation..."
There is a good article that I found, April Is the Cruelest Month: Why People Get Depressed and Anxious in the Spring, by Therese Borchard, Published Apr 16, 2014...
"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.
Hormones. 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.
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."
So, what to do to feel better? Perhaps an anti-inflammatory diet would help depression. Personally, I have found that concentrated tart cherry juice works great. You can also increase these foods in your diet: turmeric, garlic, onions, beets, leafy greens, almonds, wild caught salmon, peppers, and olive oil.
For Springtime insomnia and anxiety, perhaps limiting exposure to excess light at night, from computers, phone and TV screens could promote better sleep and mood. Al always, exercise and meditation can work wonders.
I hope everyone has a great Spring, full of energy and happiness!
My book, "OCD and Me, My Unconventional Journey Through Obsessive Compulsive Disorder," is available in printed and e book versions through Amazon, U.S., U.K., and Barnes and Noble.com