Spring Mania: What It Is and What to Do If It Happens

For some, bipolar symptoms may kick into gear alongside the warm weather

<p>Tatiana Maksimova / Moment / Getty</p>

Tatiana Maksimova / Moment / Getty

Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD

As someone living with a mood disorder, I have consistently found that the changing seasons are a big trigger for my mood swings. This is especially true in the spring, as the cold weather dissipates and things get warmer and brighter, usually very suddenly.

Something that happens to some people with bipolar disorder is “spring mania”— manic episodes brought on by the changes in light and other seasonal factors.

Read on to learn more about spring mania and what the experience of this phenomenon is actually like.

What Is Spring Mania?

Mania is a condition experienced by people with bipolar disorder characterized by racing thoughts, pressured speech, a persistently elevated mood or “high” feeling that can range from euphoria to irritable discomfort, feelings of invincibility, increased activity or energy and uncharacteristically risky behavior.

Some of the most common examples of risky behavior include:

  • Excessive spending: Spending money extravagantly that you wouldn’t normally spend

  • Hypersexuality: Sleeping with people you normally wouldn’t and/or without protection

  • Disregard for physical health: This could look like anything from doing drugs and drinking excessively to climbing onto the roof of your building, with no regard for the potential consequences

  • Disregard for personal safety: Being unaware of your surroundings to the point that it might result in a serious accident

Spring mania is, of course, when these symptoms are experienced in the springtime and because of the springtime. Although not a clinical diagnostic term (it would be formally described as bipolar disorder with seasonal pattern), this phenomenon is well-documented.

The Science Behind Spring Mania

It’s not completely understood why people with bipolar disorder have more manic episodes in the springtime, but it might have something to do with light exposure and circadian rhythms.

Our “circadian rhythm” refers to our internal adjustment to patterns of light and darkness—at night, when it’s dark, we sleep, and during the day, when it’s light, we’re active. As seasons change, so does our circadian rhythm.


It’s theorized that people with bipolar disorder are much more affected by these changes than those without mood disorders.

The sudden exposure to much more light, it is hypothesized, triggers manic episodes because of disruptions in our circadian rhythm and the neurochemical changes this brings on.

The stark disparity between our internal schedules and our physical environment triggers a “misalignment” in the brain that is thought to exacerbate existing mental illness, like bipolar disorder in susceptible individuals.

My Personal Experiences With Spring Mania

As a therapist and someone with a mood disorder, I'm no stranger to spring mania. Most recently, I experienced it on the first truly warm day of the season, and found myself up and running like nobody’s business. I was flying through my work, thoughts racing, pressure building up in my body (I feel my mania very somatically, usually with an intense pulling sensation in the center of my chest).

I didn’t realize what was happening, though, until I got to my therapy session that evening. I was talking a mile a minute, my speech so pressured that I kept interrupting myself. My therapist pointed this out to me, which is when I realized I was manic.


Luckily, I was contained enough to not act out—my therapy session acted as sort of a buffer, where I could recognize what was happening to me and talk about it rather than giving in to impulse.

The episode passed rather quickly after that (my manic episodes tend not to last long, usually a couple hours, a few days at the most—and in this case would be considered formally to have been a short-duration hypomanic episode) and I was able to attribute it to its true cause—the onset of spring.

I did have a more serious spring mania episode a few years before that. It was, again, the warmest day we’d had in months, and I suddenly wanted—needed—to go shopping. I only ever want to go shopping when I am manic. I took the train into the city (train rides are always triggering for me—I remember talking nonsense to strangers) and made my way to the nearest clothing store.

I have easily dropped hundreds of dollars at a time in my manic episodes, and this was no exception.


Hundreds of dollars might not seem like too much in the grand scheme of things, but I am incredibly frugal, which translates to my mania as well—so me compulsively spending a few hundred dollars is comparable to someone else spending thousands.

I spent hours hopping from store to store, happily whipping out my debit card over and over for a series of completely unnecessary purchases.

At the same time, I called my friend and talked literally non-stop for three hours. He couldn’t get a word in edge-wise—I was narrating my shopping spree in real time, shouting the whole time because the intensity and pressure behind my words was so overwhelming. I’d occasionally break out into spurts of maniacal laughter. At one point I cried.

Eventually, it was over, and I was left with the shame of having spent so much money (luckily, I kept my receipts, and was able to return most of what I’d purchased) and the embarrassment of behaving so strangely in a very public place.

In short, spring mania is real.

Why It's Important to Talk About Spring Mania

Being aware of spring mania can be incredibly important for those whom it affects. Knowing that it’s coming—and being able to prepare for it in advance—is a benefit that we rarely experience with any other mood symptom. Mood disorders are nefarious because we never know when an episode will hit; but recognizing the possibility and danger of spring mania means we can ready ourselves for it.

If the people around you are aware of the potential of spring mania, they can learn just how to support you if and when you experience a manic episode.


Being able to count on friends, family and psychiatric clinicians to understand what is happening to you and to help you during an episode could mean the difference between engaging in some very risky behavior and staying safe while you are symptomatic.

“Having awareness of how spring mania may trigger our loved ones with bipolar disorder can help us steer them away from potential triggers for that period of time, or toward professional help to mitigate the risk of potentially destructive behavior,” explains Roger Rivera, a psychiatric–mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP).

“As spring mania manifests differently in each person, knowing their baseline state is helpful for identifying signs of the disorder and connecting them with relevant resources," he says.

Final Thoughts

As we march forward into the spring season, it’s important to be aware of the possibility of spring mania. If you’re armed with information about this kind of episode and ready with a network of people you can go to for support, you can go into the impending warm weather feeling safe and secure.

Read the original article on Verywell Mind.