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.

Get more Humor ?
  • Abi Newhouse Vaughn

    I know this is a humor column, but I totally have BTSS. Though, I really am going through a school transition (currently in first semester of grad school). But it is making me think a lot about style transitions! Undergrad style does not fit grad school life. I want to look more sophisticated, but also maintain my personal style. It’s been a fun challenge. And I have, more often than I’d like to admit, thought about getting bangs. Hopefully I’m not alone here.

    • Shevaun

      I initially tried to do that when I was in grad school but devolved into looking more like myself (i.e. a dirtbag), as a rejection of the style of my fellow grad school attendees (librarian school; they all wore cardigans and dresses).

      Good luck though! I hope you can bridge that gap 👋🏾

  • Bmo

    Thank god for this article talking me out of a haircut… Haley’s bangs have been trying to trick me into getting some.

    • Amelia Diamond

      you should probably still get them

  • Sigh, guilty as charged. Good think my regular Hairkiller is not there anymore… will be buying some furniture though.

  • Abby

    Yesss I have this! I’m actually in a horrible mood today (someone with less experience and seniority got promoted over me womp womp) and all I can think about is a new job/new clothes/new ME.

  • gracesface

    Did someone say St. Elmo’s Fire!?!? I skip through all of the Kirby (Emilio Estevez) chasing Andie Macdowell scenes but I will watch the Andrew Mccarthy confessing his love to Ally Sheedy over and over. Seriously, one of my faaaaavorites.


    • Amelia Diamond

      watch it once a year ugh

  • dietcokehead

    “New year, new look, new Paige.”

  • Jay

    OMG. Well totally have that…

    Please add „make resolutions to improve your career“ „considering starting a blog“ „thinking about getting into a different profession“ (Seriousness judged on how many information packages from universities you order in…) „think about kids“ and „getting a puppy“.

    Have all of that.

    No puppy yet and my „career“ doesnt really allow it.


    Hm… will report on whether that makes a better life…

    (Whoa, another biggie: deciding to only get expensive hair body and face care… – have it all standing there and procrastinating on the day where my „new life“ is supposed to start… btw do you know that feeling of having to wait for something to allow yourself doing something?! All the time here…)

  • Kat

    Hahaha this is exactly me right now: Should I dye my hair, and if so, what colour? Do I need a new top/jumper/skirt despite having recently bought a bunch of new clothes? Should I buy a loom and start weaving wall hangings?

    I have sort of decided, fuck it, yes, all of the above!

  • Bingo! Currently fighting the extreme desire to chop off my hair and dye it a pale, icy blue. I know it would look terrible…but then, would it?!

  • Ashlyn Grace

    I wasn’t going to click this article, and then I saw the subtitle about the urge to get bangs and I knew this was speaking to me. As someone who just texted “so can we all be the Avengers for Halloween” less than 24 hours ago and suddenly felt the urge to buy cross-stitching materials and watched hours of embroidery tutorials, I feel targeted. And I like it.

  • JennyWren

    This was me about two months ago. I actually bought bootcut jeans because I was told they were coming back, then it rained the first day I wore them out and I abandoned them out of disgust. Now I’m in Winter Preparedness and Consolidation mode (WPaC) and am furiously collecting sweaters and moisturising skin care.

  • Lola Jacobs

    BtSS actually forces me to confront and own the most comfortable faction of my wardrobe. I usually decide that if I’m going to be stressed out, I should be in the largest sweatshirt possible paired with a button down while doing so.

  • Ashley F.

    First your mall story triggered memories of bts shopping and now this. Thanks for confirming my condition and bringing awareness to btss.

  • Susanne Frehoff

    I also have this in spring…

  • this is toooooo real

  • Emma

    I needed this. I’ve been contemplating whether or not to get bangs (every time I get bangs I say “never again!” because they look horrible and are annoying every.single.time)…Nice to see I’m not alone.

  • Owiredua

    I shaved my head last week and have absolutely no regrets. I *am* starting to wonder about my motivations though. Also, my head is cold all the time now 🙁