WebMR: Do You Have Back-to-School Syndrome?


Back-to-School Syndrome (BtSS) is defined by the unexplainable urge to change something drastic about one’s wardrobe, appearance, reputation or lifestyle around the official start of fall. BtSS is often described by patients as “a sensation similar to that of New Year’s resolution-making compulsions,” although it’s reported that the desire to metamorphose into a new version of self for the sake of a grand reveal is far stronger with BtSS. Back-to-School Syndrome affects children, teens and adults of all ages, although it may manifest later in the season (typically October) for those over the age of 22.

Symptoms & Types:

Back-to-School syndrome can be difficult to detect in adults as it’s often associated with “the changing of the seasons.” It’s important to document and track all symptoms as they come so that you can provide accurate information for your doctor, who may otherwise diagnose you as “a millennial.”  Common symptoms include:

+ Minor existential crisises
+ The sudden urge to get bangs
+ If not bangs, the sudden urge to get a counter-personality haircut or dye job
+ Disgust towards clothes and outfits previously deemed wearable and “cute”
+ The self-assured declaration that one “might be turning into a turtleneck person”
+ An insatiable craving for 1970s and 80s movies with an undeniable autumnal aesthetic (The Big Chill, Saint Elmo’s Fire, Love Story) in order to determine the direction for one’s fall look
+ Signing up for a gym membership
+ Reckless calendar filling and regrettable social plans-making
+ Acquisition of a new hobby that reflects zero prior mentions
+ Frequent home redecoration efforts
+ Signing up for 5ks and half-marathons
+ Planning “day trips” to “get out of the city”
+ Making empty promises of bringing leftovers to work for lunch
+ Delusions of entering rooms filled with friends, colleagues and exes as a spectacularly improved version of one’s self, complete with slow-motion entry, hair fans, background music and cheers/applause


BtSS develops early in age, typically when children begin to understand the social power of annual reinvention. BtSS can live dormant in one’s subconscious until it’s triggered by any number of events, including — but not limited to:

+ A major breakup
+  The realization that you “wasted your summer
+ Sunday Scaries
+ Adulthood in general
+ Having to answer “absolutely nothing” to at least nine different inquiries of “what’s new with you”
+ In rare cases, untreated Cuffing Season Fever can prompt BtSS, and vice-versa

Treatment & Care:

Ignoring the cautionary advisement of one’s hairstylist, getting bangs anyway, hating it and getting into hats instead has been known to cure some, but not all cases of BtSS. Other treatments include:

+ Vitamin C and D
+ Benadryl
+ Trying new things (literally anything)
+ Moving furniture around
+ Starting a podcast
+ Going for a run, just once
+ Brunch
+ Planning the group’s Halloween costume
+ Pumpkin spice and/or cinnamon spice
+ Going shopping, subsequently running out of money

If you suffer from BtSS, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. It helps to talk about BtSS with others in comment sections, like the one below. Ask your doctor first before starting treatment, especially brunch, because you probably made those plans while drunk. 

Unsure if you have shopping paralysis instead? Click here for more information.

Photo by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond is a writer, creative consultant, and Man Repeller alumnus living in New York City.

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