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 2021, June 23 from

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.

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