Birthday blues are a real problem
I've never really been a birthday person. Even as a child, I was never into the whole gimmick of hosting celebratory parties. Regardless, I did enjoy getting presents and feeling special on "my day." In my teenage years, I still didn't particularly find my birthday special, but I still found small ways to enjoy and accept it. However, every birthday I've had after my 18th one seems to be more foreboding than the last. What was once a cause of celebration has turned into a reason for dread.
By the time my last birthday arrived, the whole week was consumed by an overwhelming feeling of dread. All I could think of was that another year had passed, and that there wasn't enough to show for it. Anything and everything seemed better than celebrating my birthday, and the thought of turning another year older made me feel both physically and mentally unwell. By the powers vested in me by Google, I concluded that I was coming down with a case of the "birthday blues."
So, what does having a case of the birthday blues mean? Also known as birthday depression, it consists of feeling down, sad, and apathetic towards your special day and its celebrations. Even though the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) doesn't recognize this as a mental health disorder, the sadness and depression patients feel due to it can be very severe. Some common symptoms of birthday depression include sharp mood changes a couple of days around a birthday, feeling lower than usual, a general sense of demotivation, and contemplating regretfully about the past.
Birthday depression can be attributed to many reasons. Individuals with prior experience with anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders are likely to experience sad feelings on birthdays. Furthermore, many people have past negative experiences with their birthdays, such as family fights, friends not showing up, and not getting the presents they want. These negative feelings can be regurgitated in the form of depression on birthdays.
Finally, when a birthday comes around, we tend to reflect on our lives. This introspection can unravel dissatisfaction about not being not where we want to be in life. In an era where everyone curates their life on social media, it's not uncommon to feel behind. Birthdays can also be stressful for people who fear aging and feel like they have limited time left to experience what life has to offer.
So, is there a solution to this? Luckily there are many ways to counter the effects of the birthday blues. Reframing your outlook to focus on the positives is a great way to feel much better. Additionally, practicing self-compassion and awareness towards your negative experiences can help you process them better.
On the other hand, you shouldn't feel pressured to have a big birthday bash just because everyone else is doing it. Planning a big party can be taxing and take the fun out of birthdays for many people. It's ok to be a bit selfish on your big day and celebrate it the way you would like. You can do this by engaging in activities and being with people who make you feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Finally, while it's easier said than done, don't forget to step back and take a deep breath.
1. Medical News Today. (February 27, 2018). Why are birthdays so hard?
2. Verywell Mind. (October 11, 2022). What Is Birthday Depression?
Turns out Taaseen Mohammed Islam can write semi-decently at the expense of being able to do basic math. Send him pointers at [email protected]