Birthday Blues


Birthday cakes are supposed to be a symbol of joy and celebration, however, some people view it as a sign of dread.

Milo Martinson, Photojournalist

Birthdays are often considered a time of childlike joy, full of cake, presents, and celebrations. While this is the case with small children, as their birthdays are a sign of growing up, the situation changes when it turns into a sign of growing old. 

Experiencing a case of birthday blues isn’t uncommon. Nearly half (48%) of Americans agree they feel disappointment on their birthday for a number of reasons ( Birthday blues, or birthday sadness, is often triggered by fear of uncertainty or age ( These terms put it lightly, but it’s usually a feeling of an intense existential crisis within a person’s mind which can lead to something as serious as a depressive episode. It’s the feeling that time is running out, and you realize how small your life seems compared to the vastness of the universe. It can be a lot to handle, especially since feeling upset about an upcoming birthday is stigmatized within our society.

Birthdays often have a lot of baggage, making them hard to cope with. Nostalgia can make a birthday feel disappointing, especially if your birthday does not have the same sense of joy and happiness it once did when you were a child. A lack of milestones in life can add to birthday blues, with the lack of achievement delivering a crushing weight on self-esteem. Feeling less love, or having fewer people to celebrate with, can also contribute to a sense of discontent on a birthday. As we grow older, our circle of friends and family usually grows smaller and smaller. Elderly people especially struggle with this: as they grow older, there are fewer people around them to make them feel loved. Social media can severely amplify all of these factors. We have a tendency to compare our lives to everyone else on social media, and seeing how other people are having a blast on their birthday, we can feel like our plans are insufficient. All of this could create an environment that can make it almost impossible to enjoy the time spent celebrating a birthday.

If you can’t see the bright side of things, your whole day is going to seem like it’s not going your way.

— Nex Klienshmit (11)

Feeling unhappy on your birthday sucks: so how do you push through the birthday blues? Personally, I’ve always felt a weight on my chest as my birthday rolled around each year. I decided that this year’s birthday would be different, and I did everything in my power to ensure I could enjoy my day because everyone deserves a good birthday. As cheesy as it sounds, the most important element of having a good birthday is keeping a positive outlook. Nex Klienshmit (11) shares this perspective: “If you can’t see the bright side of things, your whole day is going to seem like it’s not going your way.” Another helpful tool would be to keep realistic expectations. We forget to appreciate the small things when we expect a grand gesture. Keeping realistic or no expectations at all may help with feeling less disappointed. While it can be difficult, focusing on a mindset of gratefulness for what we do have can help tremendously with feeling sad on a birthday. If you find yourself constantly disappointed with how your loved ones celebrate your birthday, it may be worth communicating so they can adapt their approach for the following year. I recently had my birthday roll around, and I was worried I would feel as blue as usual on my birthday. I decided to set no expectations for the day and focus on living in the present moment. To my surprise, I didn’t feel nearly as distraught as I usually do. Of course, the feeling wasn’t completely diminished, but deciding to let myself enjoy the day for what it was helped tremendously. I believe your mindset has much to do with your enjoyment throughout the day. Even if it’s the worst day ever, you’ll feel less miserable if you try to have fun with it instead of fighting it.