While most people throw themed parties or have dinner with friends to commemorate another trip around the sun, not everyone loves celebrating their birthday. In fact, for some people, birthdays are a source of ambivalence, anxiety, and/or sadness. This is known as birthday depression or the birthday blues, and it affects thousands of people every year.
But why is an otherwise happy day, full of love from friends and family, such a bummer for so many people? There are a number of reasons, ranging from anxiety and stress to societal pressures. And although it’s not technically classified as a mental health disorder, birthday depression can no doubt take a toll on your well-being. Here, we’ll get into some of what causes this phenomenon.
Common Causes of Birthday Depression
According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety is classified as Intense and persistent worry about everyday situations. The thought of a birthday celebration during which all eyes are on you might trigger your anxiety and contribute to negative feelings surrounding your birthday in general.
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Often considered anti-social, introverts get a bad rap. The truth is that introverts enjoy socializing in their own way and may find parties overwhelming. While some people enjoy the attention, introverts may find that all the birthday praise and engagement causes self-consciousness.
No one likes getting older, and on your birthday, you might recognize just how fleeting life is and start to long for your younger years. Some people even have an intense fear of getting older and dying, which can bring out some grim feelings with each passing year.
Pressure and Expectations
There’s a lot of pressure these days to keep up with the “Joneses” and accomplish things at a specific time. Comparing yourself to others or not feeling that you are where you wanted to be by that specific age can lead to self-doubt and sadness.
Feelings of Failure
Year after year, we set new goals for ourselves — finally changing careers, paying off debt, losing weight or finding a life partner — but many times these expectations are unrealistic. So much is out of our control, as a lot of people found out during the pandemic.
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For many, birthdays are often tied to negative experiences in the past. If you grew up in a toxic environment, they may not be something you look forward to and may serve as reminders of unhappy or stressful times throughout your childhood.
Lack of Friendships
As an adult, you might find it harder to stay connected with friends. We are all super busy, trying to accomplish our own individual goals and starting families, making meeting new people hard as well. This can leave a person feeling lonely and isolated on their birthday.
If you are going through a life crisis or recently experienced a trauma, such as the death of a loved one, birthdays may not feel like a cause for celebration. Instead, you may find yourself reminiscing on the past, crying more, and disengaging from those in your circle.
Even a common cold can cancel your plans. So when your birthday comes around and you’re stuck at home with no energy to do anything, that can be pretty disappointing. While more chronic illnesses can lead to deeper feelings of depression or lack of interest in doing things you normally love.
History of Depression or Mental Illness
If your family has a history of depression, or you know for a fact that you have chronic depression, this may play a massive role in how you feel about birthdays. If you find yourself having depressive episodes during your birthday, talk to your doctor and get help.
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How to Overcome Birthday Depression
Having birthday depression is not uncommon. See if you can determine the source of your birthday blues and reflect on what it is you dislike about your birthday, seeking professional help when necessary. Then, choose to celebrate it the way that makes you feel comfortable, be it an intimate gathering with your family, dinner with your significant other, or a weekend getaway with only your closest friends.
Try to appreciate the people who are thinking of you, your achievements (both big and small), and all the benefits of getting older. Forget whatever expectations you had put in place for yourself and focus on what makes you happy — because after all, your life is worthy of celebration!