A Clinical Psychologist On Spring Fever & How It Actually Affects Us
The days are getting longer, the birds are chirping, and the buds of trees are finally starting to reappear after a long, cold winter. Many of us are likely feeling the call to get outside, particularly after COVID-19 has limited our indoor recreation options for months.
You might call it spring fever—but what does that term actually mean? And how, if at all, does it affect us biologically? To find out, we asked clinical psychologist, Ayanna Abrams, Psy.D. Here's what she had to say.
So, is "spring fever" a real thing?
Abrams tells mbg she's seen a mix of reactions to spring in her clinical practice, "some biological, and some related to the meaning that we assign to springtime."
Spring is, after all, a time that many of us are conditioned to look forward to. Spring breaks, spring cleanings, and so on, train us to treat this as a period of rebirth and an opportunity to socialize. Not for nothing, spring is also when many people start thinking about planning summer travels.
"Life can feel like it opens for people during this time of year, which is an energy that many can benefit from," Abrams notes.
So, as far as whether spring fever is "real," she contends that "What people experience within themselves and their moods is real, regardless of what it may be prompted by."
How does "spring fever" relate to seasonal affective disorder?
The term or experience of spring fever isn't actually a medically diagnosable mood condition, Abrams explains to mbg. However, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) certainly is, and with the onset of spring, some of us will feel the heaviness of winter start to dissipate.
The idea of spring fever "has its roots in very real changes that people may experience when the weather gets warmer and the nights feel longer due to increased sunlight into the evening," she explains. This can lead to a "spike" in our moods, she notes.
On the other side of the coin, "People may also experience increased energy that feels detrimental because it feels restless, agitated, and a bit more frenetic," Abrams adds. This means that having trouble concentrating, feeling unproductive, struggling to keep up interpersonal relationships, and even noticing changes in sleep and appetite patterns are not uncommon reactions to this time of year either.
Moral of the story: Seasonal shifts affect everyone differently, so spring fever is a very real phenomenon—but it doesn't necessarily look the same from one person to another.