Mental Health Blogs

Children with Mental Illness: The Spring-and-Fall Phenomenon

I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but mine is literally blossoming with signs of Spring. Trees are budding, flowers are blooming–we even dug the lawn mower out of hiding yesterday.

With the return of Daylight Savings Time and April 1 less than a week away, I’m holding my breath and crossing my fingers, wondering–Will Bob’s psychiatric symptoms get worse in the next few months, or do we have them well enough under control?

I’ve written before about psychiatric illness and what I call the Spring/Fall Phenomenon. In my personal experience dealing with psychiatric illness, as well as living with Bob’s, I’ve noticed a definite exacerbation during the Spring and Fall, particularly around the start and end of Daylight Savings Time. I’m not the only one–Bob’s former therapist once told me she receives an influx of calls every April, “as if ‘Spring Fever’ really exists!”

If you’ve noticed a significant increase in your child’s psychiatric symptoms during Spring and/or Fall, you’ve probably driven yourself crazy trying to find out why. Unfortunately, there are numerous possibilities that are as difficult to pin down as they are to control. Some researchers believe there is a link between seasonal allergies (pollen in Spring; mold, dust, pollen in Fall) and psychiatric symptoms–and obviously, if you’re sneezy, itchy and congested, everything is going to feel worse.

Changes in hours of daylight and sun exposure have also been linked to symptom fluctuations. More exposure to sunlight may lessen depression, but it may also disrupt sleep patterns. Increased sunlight exposure has also been thought to trigger manic behavior.

Personally, things have gone well in our house–so far, anyway. Bob has been a little more “up,” but definitely not to the extent he’s been in years past. His psychiatrist prescribed a low dose of Trazodone to help him sleep, which I believe (and he agrees) has done wonders for his mood. And his report card (for the period of January through the end of March) was fantastic–he brought up all of his letter grades, and improved in every non-letter area. For the first time ever, he didn’t receive a single “N” (Not Progressing).

Have we side-stepped the Spring Phenomenon? I think it’s still a bit early to tell. But I believe Bob’s current medication regimen is working wonders for him. (Oddly enough, I haven’t noticed him having any allergy problems this Spring, despite high pollen levels–which may also be contributing to his success.)

If you notice a seasonal trend to your child’s symptoms, consider the possible triggers and discuss them with your treatment team. It’s much easier to enjoy Winter’s end when your child isn’t suffering.

This entry was posted in ADHD, Anxiety, Bipolar Child, Parenting Child with Mental Illness, Psychiatric Medication, School Issues, Sleep Problems, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Children with Mental Illness: The Spring-and-Fall Phenomenon

  1. Dale Merrill says:

    Our family loves summer but our summers are always filled with chaos that surrounds my sons mental illness. I thought it was just us, I’ve never heard anyone else say that they experience this kind of change with the seasons. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Net Richards says:

    My son has schizophrenia and it is always worse in the spring. His psychiatrist had never heard of an increase in symptoms in the spring so I thought it was just him so I was also glad to hear that we weren’t alone in this.

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