For many people, their birthday is one of the happiest days of their year. However, for many people fighting depression, not only is their birthday not one of the happiest days of their year, but in fact, it actually serves to trigger their depression and make them feel even worse. According to members of The Depression Project's community, there are five main reasons for this - and in this blog post, we're going to share them with you.
1. "Birthday Depression" Can Show Up Because You Feel Unworthy Of Any Celebration - As A Result Of Not Feeling As If You Deserve To Be Acknowledged And "Seen"
When you're fighting depression, it's common to be consumed with negative thoughts like "I'm a failure", "I'm useless", "I'm weak", "I'm a burden", "I'm a loser", "I'm stupid" and/or "I hate myself" for example, and it's also common to be consumed with painful emotions such as feelings of worthlessness and shame. And, when you feel this bad about yourself, then it can feel extremely jarring to be the "centre of attention" and celebrated on your birthday.
2. "Birthday Depression" Can Show Up Because You Feel Apathetic About Plans And Any Details Surrounding Your Birthday
As we often talk about at The Depression Project, when you're deep in a depressive episode, it's very common to feel exhausted and numb. And, if this is the case, then it can result in you feeling apathetic about your birthday and thinking "what the point?"
3. "Birthday Depression" Can Show Up Because You Feel That You Have "Lost Another Year"
Birthdays often serve as a time of reflection, that involve looking back over the previous year since your last birthday and contemplating how it's gone, the experiences you've had, and the progress you've made. Consequently, many people in The Depression Project's community reported the symptoms of their depression worsening on their birthday - as a result of feeling as if another year has gone by that depression has taken from them, and that they're not where they thought they would be at the age they're turning.
4. "Birthday Depression" Can Show Up If You Find Yourself Alone On Your Birthday
Unfortunately, it's very common for people with depression to feel alone - because, for example:
- Many people with depression feel extremely misunderstood by the people around them -
- For a wide variety of reasons that we talk about in our blog post titled 20 Reasons Why People With Depression Isolate Themselves, it's common for people with depression to withdraw from other people and over time lose touch with them.
- Additionally, depression can trigger feelings of anger, which can lead to lashing out at loved ones when they don't deserve it, as well as misunderstandings and arguments that can make maintaining relationships very difficult.
For these reasons, as opposed to being surrounded by loved ones who understand and support them, it's common for people with depression to feel isolated and alone on their birthdays - which can trigger feelings of sadness, and cause them to feel even more depressed.
5. "Birthday Depression" Can Show Up Because Of The Obligation To Be Happy Around Others
Birthday celebrations can come with the pressure of expectation – for example, to be happy, excited, and full of joy because you’re on the receiving end of other people’s love and kindness. However, like we've said, when you're in a depressive episode, then instead of feeling happy, excited and full of joy, you're prone to being consumed with negative thoughts; and feeling miserable, worthless, exhausted, and/or numb, for example. And, this dissonance between how others expect you to feel and how you actually feel can result in one or more consequences that further contribute to your depression. For example:
- You feeling drained, burned out and even more exhausted from faking a smile and pretending to be happy, excited and full of joy when you're not.
- Alternatively, you may find yourself feeling guilty and/or that you're a burden - if you're unable to fake a smile and pretend that everything is "fine", and your loved ones consequently feel disappointed that you're not in the "good, happy mood" that they expected you to be in.
Key Takeaways When It Comes To "Birthday Depression"
If you experience "birthday depression", then please know that you are not alone, and that even know it may not be talked about very much, it's actually very, very common for people with depression to find that their symptoms worsen on their birthday.
On the other hand, if you know someone experiencing "birthday depression", then please don’t blame them if they’re unable to feel the joy that you'd like them to feel on their birthday. Instead, we encourage you to just try your best to make them feel cared for and loved.
All our love,
The Depression Project Team.