Spring Mania – Fact or Fiction?
People struggling with mood disorders frequently find their moods tied to the rhythm of the seasons. Spring heralds an upswing in energy and cheerfulness, while autumn and winter mean “down” times for many. As the northern hemisphere enters the Spring season, people with bipolar symptoms are cautioned to watch out for signs of mania which can be sparked by increased daylight and warmth found in spring weather.
This past week thought a significant upsurge in the number of patients in our mood disorder clinic with symptoms that might suggest hypomania: reduced sleep, increased energy, and either a more optimistic or more irritable mood.
Spring and Fall – Times of Change
Spring and fall are the times of year with the fastest change in the length of the day.
The change from one day to the next at the time of the summer solstice in late December is around zero. Similarly, there is little change from day-to-day at the time of the winter solstice in June. This is not surprising as solstice means ‘the day the Sun stood still’, so at those two times of the year we expect little change from day-to-day.
There is more change at the time of the equinoxes – autumn and spring – in March and September respectively. At those times the changes day-to-day can be up to three minutes.
So it is not surprising that these are the times most often associated with seasonal mood changes.
Curiously, while the spring mania connection is the most common one, a significant minority of people with bipolar moods have the reverse pattern: a spring depression and a fall hypomania.
Keep an eye on your own responses to seasonal change and be prepared to take action if necessary. Some people find that they can monitor their reactions, and being careful to regulate sleep schedules or just slow down a bit is enough to prevent a swing into mania, but for others more active interventions, such as a temporary change in medication may be called for.
Dr. Chris Aiken, of the Mood Treatment Center of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, also recommends trying blue light blocking glasses, which are worn in the evening around the equinoxes, when the change in light intensity is most rapid. This intervention can help patients control the amount of light, and therefore stimulation, that they are exposed to which can help in self-care.