Spring Fever, Serotonin, Suicides…
The following is a letter that I sent to my “Friends of DogtorJ” after I made a post on a medical Website. The author of this blog was discussing the “merry month of May” and the poorly understood phenomenon of increased suicides during that spring month. It is a lot more understandable than one would think at first glance.
Spring Fever, Serotonin, Suicides and School Shootings
I know that I am developing a reputation for being someone who can be a real downer. I’m sorry for that but this is certainly not my intent. This article is an example. The title, when read by some of you, was probably followed by a groan. But, this piece is meant to be one of encouragement because there is HOPE for those who are in the throws of depression or, even worse, overwhelming anxiety.
I posted the following on this Website today ( http://health.yahoo.com/depression-2006/depression/3494/the-merry-month-of-may?cin=0#comments ). I had to after reading the writer’s comment that the month of May was a troubled month (high suicide rate) but researchers really didn’t understand why. Of course, two of the three worst campus shootings in US history occurred 4 days apart on the calendar in April, with tomorrow being the anniversary of Columbine. Coincidence? Perhaps but people do some very bad things in April and May, including committing suicide. It is not a coincidence that this “season” starts with April Fool’s Day and we refer to some behavior this time of year as “spring fever”.
Unfortunately, I have had personal experience with what I posted on this site. As I state in the post, celiacs have serious problems with depression and low brain serotonin is one of contributing the factors. But something “interesting” can happen to the SAD (seasonal affected disorder) victim when Spring hits. I went home for lunch one sunny April afternoon and started shaking. Then the fleeting thoughts hit. Some would call it a severe anxiety attack. Others a nervous breakdown. The doctors called it “acute endogenous depression with mania”. I didn’t know then what I know now. This was classic for the celiac/gluten intolerant (or one suffering from severe food intolerance) and that the time of year as also typical.
So, as upsetting as this topic is, especially in light of the incredible tragedy at Virginia Tech this week, this Email is meant to give us some hope. Mental illness does not occur simply because we did not receive enough love as children. Certainly, life’s tragedies can severely compound the effects of the true underlying causes of depression, bipolar disease, schizophrenia, ADHD, OCD, and more. BUT, we now know that this list of maladies is rooted in physical illness. Freud was wrong. And, ALL of these conditions have been linked to celiac disease and the related food intolerances.
This is good news! These things can be helped and in ways other than the purely pharmaceutical route. Thank Goodness! Take a look at the history of school shootings before this week’s and see how many of those individuals who carried out these horrendous acts were on multiple, prescribed drugs (e.g. SSRI’s). How many of these acts could have been prevented if their support groups (parents, teachers, doctors) knew about the psychiatric effects of food intolerance?
I am a living, breathing (by the Grace of God) example of what the diet change can do. This is one of the principle motivating forces behind what I do on the Internet. I have looked into the abyss. It is terrifying and I do not want anyone to ever have to experience that….ever. Depression and anxiety can be helped. Once we understand this, perhaps we can prevent some of the tragedies like those we have witnessed in our schools.
I hope this helps,
Posted on Yahoo Health 4-19-07- The Merry Month of May?
Why do suicides in our hemisphere occur most commonly during May? So far there hasn’t been a good explanation. However, the predictability of the May peak suggests a biological influence.
April and May are the peaks for suicide and for very good reason. It has greatly to do with the seasonal fluctuations in brain serotonin levels.
During the winter months, brain serotonin levels drop due to the lack of sunlight. As most know, this can cause severe depression in some (SAD- seasonal affected disorder) as serotonin is a very important mood moderator. However, it also helps to protect neurons from over-stimulation by the neurotransmitters (e.g. glutamate) and neuroactive amino acids such as glutamic acid (e.g. MSG) and aspartic acid (e.g. Nutrisweet).
In Spring, the days become longer and brighter. Light is very stimulating, examples of which being aggression in the animal world as Spring occurs and seizures occurring in epileptic children while watching bright, moving graphics on computers and TV. So, April and May are transition months, when the days get longer and brighter after 6 months of low brain serotonin. In people with food intolerance (e.g. celiac disease), the normal rise in serotonin to match the increasing daylight is impeded by their condition. They are malabsorbing the nutrients (e.g. B complex) needed to make more serotonin. Celiacs/gluten intolerants (such as myself) when uncontrolled are notoriously low in serotonin, depressed, and have REAL difficulty in spring, when the depression turns to ANXIETY.
And I can speak from personal experience- depression is one thing but anxiety is a whole ‘nother ballgame. Depression keeps you in bed. Anxiety makes you want to put the gun to your head.
So, this phenomenon is completely understandable. In April/May, the anxiety takes over as the light of Spring over-stimulates the brain in the face of low serotonin and the worst of the worst can’t handle it. If it were not for my faith in God, I would not be here writing this post. But now that I am a recovered celiac, I am totally normal and do medical literature research and consultations on this topic.
I hope this helps.
John B. Symes, DVM (aka “DogtorJ”)