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As warmer weather quickly approaches, so does the onset psychological and physiological symptoms that are spring fever. We become more energized, upbeat, and sexually active if slightly distracted. This phenomenon is actually a much welcomed one after being cooped up for months on end and can lead to a better quality of life. But, why do we get this way? What is it that makes us behave so erratically, cleaning out closets and dumping bad habits? Like its evil twin cabin fever, spring fever is not a scientific diagnosis, and researchers are only beginning to understand how the change in seasons influences our mood.
It’s long been thought that sex drives and hormonal levels peak in the spring time. Just look at the birds and the bees. But studies have shown that levels of testosterone are higher in the fall. Similar to hibernation, the explanation is that humans instinctively react to seasonal changes. Previously, this reaction was thought to be psychological however, evidence is now showing it’s actually physiological; changing seasons prompt an adjustment in the body’s internal chemistry, states director of seasonal studies at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., Dr. Rosenthal.
Theories suggest that increased and longer stretches of sunlight in spring are measured by the brain -possibly via the eyes. The information is processed by the pineal gland located at the base of the cerebrum. This information then causes a response in the gland, reducing its secretion of the hormone melatonin, responsible for energy levels. Our internal clocks take cues from the sun’s light, keeping us in sync, regulating the cycles of body temperature, hormonal secretion, and sleep with help from the sun.
While there are some great feelings associated with spring fever, not everyone is lucky enough to experience the euphoria of such a positive mood change.Interestingly though, suicides and hospital admissions for depression and alcoholism reach a peak in spring, says Dr. Rosenthal. It’s suggested that, like cabin fever, some people are more susceptible to heightened feelings of depression and hopelessness during this time of year. There is a very real possibility that the reason for this is biological, and some people can’t seem to handle such a rapid change in sunlight exposure. It’s a strenuous time of year for them and they just can’t adjust in a positive way.
Even though new discoveries are being made about this wonderful time of year, scientists have a long way to go in order to prove whether spring fever indeed has a psychological or physiological cause. Meanwhile, get out and grab some vitamin D and soak up the sun.