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

March 29, 2012 Angela McClanahan

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.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2012, March 29). Children with Mental Illness: The Spring-and-Fall Phenomenon, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

Karen Johnson
March, 30 2018 at 5:11 am

This article is very helpful, we just realized that every March has been awful for my son

May, 27 2014 at 3:53 am

In traditional Chinese medicine phlegm and heat can affect the mind. Allergies can create large amounts of phlegm in the head cavities and could possibly slow the movement of energy (therefore, slowing down the normal chemical processes). Heat aggravates the body. Pay attention to people going through stages of mental disturbance, many have signs of heat in the region of the head and chest(ie; inflamed acne breakouts, red faces/skin, red and/or dried lips, dry skin). Illegal drugs and alcohol can further create heat in the body and exacerbate the symptoms. Furthermore, foods allergies can create phlegm and many times these food allergies go unnoticed. Excessive consumption of spicy foods can create heat in the body. Even excessive sun exposure can create heat in the body. Just good for thought-not meant to replace medical advice.

Net Richards
April, 11 2012 at 8:06 am

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.

Dale Merrill
March, 31 2012 at 1:08 pm

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.

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