On your birthday you may feel birthday depression or sad. Experiencing depression around this date is known as birthday depression. Depression on your birthday is a real thing and nothing to be ashamed of. This birthday-related depression is common.
There's a lot of pressure on your birthday, and if your birthday doesn't live up, that can lead to depression.
We sometimes call it the birthday blues or birthday sadness, but birthday depression is often caused by fear of uncertainty, fear of aging, or fear of being alone on your birthday. Softer terms like these can undermine the difficult reality many people experience on their birthday. What's more, the transient nature of sadness makes it even easier to brush off.
Regardless of whether sadness arises from that specific date (your birthday) or chronic depression, it is significant and can increase feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and other negative emotions, possibly evolving into a depressive episode. This is why it's important to take depression seriously, even on your birthday, and approach it with kindness and understanding. No matter the duration of your depression, we will touch upon some of the causes and concerns later in this article.
Anyone can experience birthday depression. Some of the people who commonly experience this include chronic or recurring sadness around your birthday.
If you've ever struggled with chronic depression, it can have a significant impact, especially on your birthday. And if depression runs in your family, genetics could also be a factor for birthday depression.
Anxiety, whether it's social anxiety or otherwise, can increase your feelings of sadness surrounding your birthday. Depending on your triggers, a celebration can make your birthday an exhausting day. This gives depression an opportunity to take hold on your birthday.
Introverts are often labeled as anti-social, but that is not necessarily true. Many introverts are social, just like anyone else. They just have less of a capacity for stimulation than extroverts. Introverts may feel alone in a crowded room if they can't connect with anyone there, and may not feel lonely, even after alone time.
A birthday usually comes with more socializing than an introvert wants (and needs)! This can leave them feeling burnt out. The anxiety that may come with anticipating the birthday party can also be stressful.
If an individual struggles with another mental illness, it's possible for them to feel depressed around their birthday. If you or someone you know is already struggling, consider getting support from a licensed professional to lessen the impact of any depressive symptoms.
Having a chronic illness is already a challenge. So you can imagine how frustrating it can be when their birthday arrives and they're unable to celebrate their birthday in the way they want. While celebrating a birthday can still be possible, a little encouragement and compromise will be needed to avoid birthday depression.
Why would anyone feel depressed on their birthday? After all, with your birthday comes gifts, friends, and maybe a complimentary latte at your favorite café! But for people experiencing depression, a birthday doesn't compensate for the unpleasant reminders it can bring. Let's take a look at a few of the reasons why some people may feel birthday depression around their birthday.
Denial About Age On Your Birthday
The adage "age is just a number" isn't much help for those who experience depression on their birthday. The age might be a number, but there's no denying the physical changes that come with getting older. This is something we take more notice of around our birthday, especially if we're actively comparing our bodies to our younger selves. A fear of aging isn't something we're born with-our ageist society creates incredible pressure to value youth. This means that it's not your fault you're experiencing these feelings; by recognizing where the outside pressure comes from, you can address it and move forward.
Expectations And Pressure
There's quite a lot of freedom in creating a path for yourself. From your career to your family to your finances, you are in control of your life once you reach adulthood. However, there is still a fair amount of pressure from society to accomplish and hit certain milestones by specific times. A husband, a house, a family, and even a 401K are all things that we "should" obtain by a certain age. If you don't reach these milestones within the expected timeframe, this birthday may be a source of depression.
When we feel happy, it's an easy and wonderful experience, but you can't force the best time of your life. That goes for everything, including other milestones and important events. If you wanted something much better than what you received, it can be easy to get down about your celebration.
Feelings of Failure
We can choose our friends but we can't choose our families. Sometimes, our family-our very first social setting is a source of tension, stress, and depression. This usually gets highlighted during a birthday. For those who may have absentee, abusive, or toxic family members, birthdays may not be an exciting time to share (or not share) with family.
If you struggle with finding your life's purpose or meaning, a birthday can increase feelings of hopelessness or despondency. People crave purpose early in life, and have not found it over time can cause anxiety and depression. This experience can be heightened when you feel you haven't hit certain expectations as well.
As you can see, many reasonable factors contribute to birthday depression. Still, people can feel ashamed of this psychological struggle. Here are some reasons why depression is often accompanied by shame:
You're "Not Supposed to Feel Sad"
Society expects you to be happy on your birthday, and if you are not, then there must be something wrong with you. However, there is no specified way you are supposed to feel or act on your birthday.
Having depression doesn't make you ungrateful. In fact, a lot of people who experience depression live otherwise healthy, productive lives. You simply just need to evaluate why you are feeling this way and what can be done to help you alleviate these symptoms.
We Feel Bad for Feeling Bad
It's okay to accept and respect what you feel and experience-whether it's your birthday or not.
For better or worse, some people simply can't relate to feelings of depression on or around their birthdays. There's nothing wrong with that, but those who do not get sad may not understand what you're going through. To avoid rejection and judgment, we might pretend we're okay or simply deny our depression experience entirely.
Birthday depression can be a struggle for some. Fortunately, there are ways to live with your depression and cultivate positive experiences for yourself without denying or ignoring your authentic, true self. Here are some simple ways you can deal with depression:
If your birthday is usually a time of anxiety and depression, plan to ensure you'll get through this experience safely and responsibly. You might consider getting professional help from a licensed and certified therapist in the months leading up to your birthday to help you prepare.
Keep It Secret
This one's a bit tricky if you use social media, but if all the birthday attention stirs up feelings of sadness, consider keeping your birthday to yourself. Instead of sharing your birthdate with everyone and anyone online, share it only with the people who lift you and who are going to make an effort to let you know you are loved and appreciated.
Keep Your Routine
Show Yourself Compassion
Be Kind To Yourself
Focus On Accomplishments
Birthday sadness is attributed to the day itself, but it can lead to a real depressive episode down the road if the warning signs aren't recognized and preventative measures aren't taken. To make sure you don't slip into a depressive episode, here are three great tips that will help to prevent sadness from gaining traction once your mood changes.
Exercise and Eat Healthy
As social creatures, interacting with other humans is vital to our happiness and allows us to work through issues with the right support and perspective. If you are feeling down during your birthday as well as before and after, make sure to schedule plans with friends and family to keep yourself looking forward to something as you overcome your sadness.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Feeling sad on your birthday is often described with the term, "birthday depression." It's okay to feel your authentic feelings on any given day. This is just as true for those feeling sad, or facing the blues as it is for those who don't feel sad or face the birthday blues. There are a number of things that could lead to someone feeling sad on their birthday. A person may feel sad because they feel alone, they may live with depression and feel sad as a result, or they may feel sad for another reason. Feeling sad, or having the blues could relate to something other than being alone or living with depression, like aging or past events that make you feel sad. It's okay to count on other people and reach out to a friend to talk. You can also count on anonymous peer support, a therapist, or someone else for a conversation about how you feel, whether you're sad, feel alone, or something else.
If you feel down or sad on an ongoing basis, it's important to see a medical or mental health professional. Outside of feeling down or sad, symptoms of depression might include but aren't limited to isolation, changes in appetite, changes in sleep, loss of interest in activities, feeling hopeless or worthless, and irritability. Depression can make you feel alone, whether feeling alone is due to isolation or other symptoms. A professional like a therapist might be able to help you identify the root of feeling sad or alone, the root of your birthday blues, or, they can help you with feeling sad continuously and ongoing symptoms of depression. There are different types of depression, such as major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), postpartum depression (which differs from the baby blues) and PMDD.
Sometimes, realizing that you feel sad, alone, or like you have the blues can highlight a need to reach out, which can be a positive thing in the end and leave you feeling less alone. Regardless of what you're going through, you don't have to do it alone. Even when your feelings are attributed to the blues or feeling sad more so than a clinical diagnosis, having someone to talk to can still be advantageous. We all need a safe space to sort our feelings out when we feel sad, overwhelmed, and so on.
Why do I feel lonely on my birthday?
Birthdays are often celebrated with others rather than alone. Even if you typically enjoy being alone, a birthday can where you're alone make these feelings arise, or you may feel sad because of this if the count of people you'd like around isn't there. If it's not about the count of people or actually being alone physically, it's also possible to feel lonely and sad. Even if you're among others, you may feel sad, which could include feeling lonely or alone. After all, it's possible to feel lonely, sad, or both, when you're not alone. If you feel alone or sad consistently, it's important to reach out to someone who can help. Even if you feel alone or sad right now, it does not have to mean that you feel like this forever. If depression is something that you experience, treatments are available, like therapy, that can help reduce depression symptoms.
Why does my birthday give me anxiety?
If you live with an anxiety disorder, the anticipation of an event may heighten symptoms. For example, knowing that you're seeing other people may heighten signs of social anxiety disorder, leaving you increasingly distressed while you count the days until your bday. It may be useful to have coping skills you can count on. For example, breathing exercises where you breathe in to a count of five, hold your breath for a count of five, and release your breast to a count of five. Or exercises like the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, where you breathe in to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and release your breath to a count of eight. You can also count on skills like positive affirmations, soothing activities, like spending time outdoors or art, and reaching out to someone you can count on, whether that's a therapist, a friend, or someone else. Many of these can be used for feeling sad or for when you have the blues as well as symptoms of anxiety. Feeling sad or facing the blues can pair with anxiety at times, too.
If you experience symptoms of depression and anxiety or feel anxious or sad on an ongoing basis, make sure that you reach out to a professional who can support you. You don't have to have a formal diagnosis of depression or anxiety to start getting help. If you can't find coping skills that work for you when you feel sad or anxious alone, or even if you have found some that work alone and want to add additional skills to your tool kit for when you feel sad, anxious, or experience the blues, a professional can also help you build them up.
Is it OK to not celebrate your birthday?
Just like some count down the days until their bday and love to celebrate, some people choose not to celebrate, which is okay. There are a variety of reasons someone might do this, including negative past associations with birthdays, the birthday blues or simply being busy in their daily life on their birthday. Even if it can be attributed to the birthday blues or feeling sad, this isn't always the case. One thing to consider or count on is that you don't have to celebrate in a traditional way to have a good time. You can also count on self-care and do something that's fun for you. If you want to celebrate alone, you might do something fun for yourself alone, like going to a salon alone, going to a movie alone, or treating yourself to a nice dinner alone. Some people really value that alone time and don't have a lot of time for alone time. For example, parents might not get the alone time they want as frequently as they'd prefer to have alone time. Some people's partners, spouses, or friends, even give gifts that can give a person alone time, like a gift card for a solo activity that someone can do alone.
If not wanting to celebrate is based on the birthday blues, or if you feel alone or sad on your birthday, make sure to care for yourself in the best way you can. It isn't uncommon to feel sad on your birthday; the birthday blues are something that a lot of people endure. There are ways to self-soothe when feeling sad or alone, but reaching out to someone you can count on when you feel sad or otherwise need support may also help.
How can I feel happy on my birthday?
There are some things you might be able to identify to look forward to, such as the count to three to make a wish when you blow out candles on a cake or, if you aren't celebrating alone, the people you're with. If you do feel alone, you aren't alone in that many say that they feel sad on their birthday, so if you're not the type to count down the days in excitement, it's not just you. If you do feel sad on a consistent basis, or if you face symptoms of depression, it isn't something that you have to go through alone. Types of therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy have been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, like feeling down or sad, irritability, and loss of interest in activities. If you feel sad leading up to your birthday, using additional self-care can be advantageous. The birthday blues or feeling sad don't have to keep you from engaging in activities that make you feel happy.