However, for some individuals, specific holidays do not ring in with joyous cheer. For some people, a birthday is not a celebration but is a day of depression, sadness, and feeling miserable about the world. Like seasonal depression, birthday depression is a very real and very interruptive emotional response that can make a day for celebration into a day of depression.
What is birthday depression?
It’s possible that you may have known someone who has always seemed a bit negative or anxious about their upcoming birthday. Maybe they have refused to celebrate or even acknowledge that it is their birthday or maybe they have taken painstaking effort to avoid the day altogether, hiding the event from friends and finding ways to stay busy with work or other obligations to avoid celebrations.
Birthday depression can impact a number of people but is typically most common in people who suffer from anxiety, depressive, or other mental disorders. Commonly referred to as the “birthday blues”, this experience can be something that creates feelings of sadness, panic, and hostility towards loved ones.
What can cause Birthday Depression?
Like anxiety and depressive disorders, birthday depression can be triggered by a number of factors. There are environmental, biological, and even societal reasons that can cause someone to experience birthday depression.
- Family Feuds – For many individuals, family gatherings automatically trigger negative emotions and feelings simply due to the individuals who are part of a person’s family. Deep-seated conflicts between family members or even general dislike for one another can be an impactful impression on others when gathered for a common occasion. For example, a person may experience birthday depression when they know that a birthday party will be complete with cussing cousins who have been fighting for 10 years over a trivial incident. Family can be a great source of support, but when there is conflict or dysfunction involved, it can serve as a major trigger for birthday depression.
- A discredit to denial – If you were to hold a poll and ask most people in their 20’s if they looked forward to aging, the results would most likely show that growing older is not a goal that is looked on with favorability. Most individuals associate youth with beauty and success whereas older individuals are often viewed as being out-of-date, or being past ‘the prime of life. Many people do not wish to get older or may even lie about their age to appear younger and more vibrant to others. For individuals experiencing birthday depression, the recognition of another year older may simply be a reminder that one is no longer in the prime of their life or they could be approaching the end of an era they believe is the best. They may wish to live in denial that they are really 30 instead of 27 and feel that celebrating a birthday only serves to discredit their denial.
- FOMO – FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out, is a newly emerged term which has been coined to describe the feelings associated with hesitance or resistance to changes or decisions for fear that doing so will cause the person to miss out on other opportunities. A birthday can serve as a reminder of all of the opportunities in life that are passing an individual by. For example, most women have read or been informed that after age 35, it is more difficult to conceive and have children. A childless woman may experience birthday depression as the birthdays in her late 20’s and early 30’s begin to approach as it serves a reminder of the things that she is or potentially will miss out on due simply to aging.
- Lack of Accomplishments – It is a common occurrence for individuals to make life goals based on specific ages. For example, some may say “I’ll be married by the time I’m 30” or “I’ll buy my first house at 35”. However, despite the best-laid plans, life does not always work out according to the plans we have set for ourselves. Birthdays can serve as a reminder that you have not achieved the goals or aspirations that you have set for yourself, and instead serve as this due date for failure. For many people experiencing birthday depression, this is the trigger for their trauma.
- Peer pressure – You may have the best support network in the world, but still feel a great amount of pressure from this network to have the best experiences, be the most successful, or engage in activities. It is typical that friends or even family members will have expectations for you to enjoy celebrations for the day of your birth or that you will welcome a surprise party in your honor. However, many people feel anxious, nervous, or even irritated by these expectations. Parties and celebrations are often times to interact with those you may not see daily. This can bring about questions about your accomplishments (or lack thereof), your relationships, or your plans for the future. All of these questions, combined with the expectations to have a great time can feel like a balloon of pressure that makes you want to curl up into a ball rather than having one.
Birthdays can be a great time and provide a great excuse to see those people you haven’t seen in a while. It can be a day to celebrate that the world has the pleasure of your existence as well as a reminder to pay homage to the years that have past.
However, if you are suffering from the birthday blues or birthday depression, it can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Rest assured that not only is birthday depression common, but it can be easily overcome with the proper help. If you or someone you love is suffering from birthday depression or any type of depression, it is important to seek the appropriate medical care as soon as possible.