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Birthday Depression Is Real -- It's More than Sad

September 3, 2020 Mahevash Shaikh

Birthdays are supposed to be exciting. Unfortunately, for many of us, birthdays trigger depression, anxiety, and stress in general. Given that I happen to be one of those folks who suffer from birthday blues, I can tell you that just like clinical depression, birthday depression too is real and not a choice. 

What Birthday Depression Is (and Isn't)

As I mentioned in the title of this article, birthday depression is beyond feeling sad. It is a kind of depression that affects people before, during, or after their birthday. In my experience, it is just as crippling as clinical depression. (Tanya J. Peterson has explained perfectly in the article "Can You Help Me Understand Depression? Depression Explained.") Thankfully, it doesn't last as long; birthday blues typically disappear after a few days or at most, a week. 

However, just because it is short-lived does not mean it is easy to handle. The fact that people will guilt you for being ungrateful and force toxic positivity on you makes things even more difficult. 

How Birthday Depression Affects Me

Full disclosure: I recently "celebrated" my 30th birthday. Since it was a milestone birthday that also happened to be in the middle of a pandemic, you would be right if you guessed it was one of my worst birthdays ever. Yes, despite being treated to thoughtful gifts and greetings, I was down in the dumps. Even though I appreciated the benevolence of my loved ones, I felt anxious, depressed, irritable, ashamed, and indifferent. This strange, contradictory mixture of emotions showed up four days before my birthday.

When to Seek Help for Birthday Depression

My birthday depression was no longer around when I woke up this morning. It took seven days to disappear, as opposed to last year's four days. I've been consistently blue on my birthday for the past few years, and I still feel guilty about it sometimes. So this statement is as much an affirmation to me as it is to you: it is absolutely okay to not be in a celebratory state of mind on your birthday.

Even if the people around you are unempathetic or judgmental, you do not have to pretend to be happy just to fit in. If being true to yourself makes you look like the craziest person in the world (which you certainly aren't), then so be it. After all, it is your big day, not theirs. 

Be kind to yourself, celebrate the littlest accomplishments to improve your mood, and be patient because this too shall pass. That said, it is important to monitor the duration of your birthday blues. If it becomes unbearable or worsens, make sure to consult a mental health professional.  

How do you deal with a case of the birthday blues? Please let me know about your birthday depression in the comments below. 

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2020, September 3). Birthday Depression Is Real -- It's More than Sad, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, May 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2020/9/birthday-depression-is-real-its-more-than-sad



Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

Sarah
May, 12 2022 at 7:52 am

I thought it was just me! I have just "celebrated" my 49th birthday, and every year it seems to get worse. I now dread my birthday. This year I still feel very blue 4 days later. I start the day ok but slowly slide into this awful mood. Its like my birthday makes me feel that I am not important to anyone. I come from a large family who are, shall we say, loosely knit. This year I got cards from them but no phone calls. Not even from my mum. My husband is also historically bad at making me feel special. It is very obvious that any effort he does make (the minimum. I could tell you tales of yellow sticker supermarket flowers and microwave curry but I wont) is forced, not because he wants to. So I then spend the day feeling unloved and spiralling into this awful place where I just want to hide under my duvet. I hate that false jolly conversation you have to have with people who ask if you are having a nice day when actually all I want to do is cry. And I do cry, in secret in the bathroom, several times. When I go to bed its with relief that its over for anther year. Next year is my 50th and I can't stop thinking about how bad its going to be and what I can do to get out of it. I am contemplating actually faking an illness so I can turn my phone off and hide in my bed. But I know I will just feel even worse if I do. And yes, I feel like a spoilt brat. I am a grown woman but my birthday makes me feel like I am about 10 years old and the emotions I experience feel like a child's. Its truly awful and it scares me that it gets worse as the years go by. I just can't see how to fix this.

Bonnie
January, 17 2022 at 4:38 am

I am having severe birthday depression. It gets worse every year. I beg people to please just let the day go by. I am 59 years old today, January 17th. I have several very traumatic events that happened over a course of years, on the dreaded day. Then when I get out of sorts and want to spend the day alone, people get all bent out of shape. In fact one friend insists that I have to celebrate, it’s my duty. Granted, I have some odd friends. She still acts and dresses like a child even at 46, so I chalk it up to her own personal issues, but cannot convince her that I really don’t give a rats patootie anymore. It’s just an embarrassment to be fussed over. And the singing....oh Lord help me.....how awful that is. Treat me the same everyday. Please. My birthday is mine to not celebrate as I see fit. Yours was the most realistic article I have found thus far. Thanks for not being condescending like most of the other articles I have read. Some people think they get it, but unless they suffer the affliction, they truly have no clue. Thank you for helping. This has gotten worse for a decade now. Can hardly wait for the big blow of 60..... not. Ugh ! And yes the pandemic, scamdemic, plandemic, whatever one wants to call it, has not helped. I’ve lived long enough to watch my Country falling into a cesspool of disrepair and that seems to make it worse. Now the very head of my Country is the most evil creature on earth. So it seems my birthday is always tied to the results of an election year. Or the resulting disaster thereof in this case. No wonder I’m so damned depressed. Thanks for helping me with that breakthrough. Literally.

Birthday hater
July, 8 2021 at 7:50 am

Birthdays suck :(

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