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Wellness > Mental Health

Why Am I Always Sad On My Birthday? I Asked An Expert

I’m not too wild about my birthday, but I do love celebrating with my friends, family, and of course, a fun drink. Even if I loved celebrating my birthday, I knew my “birthday blues” would persist. Every year, I get a wave of sadness on my birthday. I could be having the best time ever, but there’s always this sense of melancholy and unspoken sadness that appears on my “special day,” and I know I’m not the only one. 

The “birthday blues” — birthday sadness, birthday tears, whatever you may call it — have been a common occurrence for many people. If the birthday blues are something you haven’t experienced yet, it’s very possible you will at some point in your life. There is nothing wrong with getting the birthday blues, but it can be hard to understand why you get them. 

Because the birthday blues can be quite common, I spoke to psychologist David Tzall about the birthday blues, why Gen Zers may experience them, and how to approach them when they hit. 

Why do I always cry on my birthday?

Birthdays can be emotional and quite difficult for some people. Your birthday is a time of celebration, but it is also a defining moment of growing up and making big changes. If growing up is a hard thing for you to process, you may be experiencing the birthday blues.

“Birthday blues refers to a feeling of sadness, melancholy, or general discontentment that some people experience around the time of their birthday,” Tzall tells Her Campus. “It’s likely been around for as long as people have celebrated birthdays — it is not a diagnosis but more an emotional state that somebody has come into when their birthday is approaching or happened.” 

Additionally, birthdays may serve as a reminder that we’re growing up, even if that’s the last thing we want to do. “A birthday can be a difficult time for someone as it is a yearly reminder that they are getting older and that friends, family, and they themselves are approaching death,” Tzall says. “It is also one less year to accomplish that which they have wanted to or set out [to]. It’s also a reminder of what they have not accomplished since their last birthday.”

Experiencing The Birthday Blues Is More Common Than You Think.

I have experienced the birthday blues for quite some time now, and I know a lot of Gen Zers are the same way. However, Tzall explains that there are some universal feelings of the birthday blues. “[The birthday blues] are so common because the underlying themes of why someone might be sad are universal: No one escapes having a birthday and no one escapes the passage of time,” Tzall says. “As a result, this makes all humans, if they so choose to be, reflective of their life and what has happened, and what there is to look forward to.” 

However, I find the birthday blues to be especially prevalent among Gen Z, and Tzall has some insight as to why this could be. “[Being sad on your birthday] might be more prevalent with younger generations, like Gen Z, because they may not see a great deal of optimism in their future.” He explains, “They see themselves getting older with fewer prospects of getting a good-paying job, owning a house, starting a family, and building wealth to sustain them in their old age.”

Having The Birthday Blues Is Normal And Healthy.

Yes, it’s OK to cry on your birthday. Tzall says experiencing the birthday blues “is definitely normal and healthy.” He explains, “Most people will get sad or reflective around anniversaries of events, and birthdays certainly fall into that category.”

But let it be known that you can celebrate another year of life and be sad at the same time. “We can hold onto two opposing emotions without one having to be the dominant feeling,” Tzall explains. So, yes, you can still listen to “Nothing New” on your birthday and then go out and have a great night. 

While it may be hard for you to accept feelings of sadness on your birthday, Tzall encourages you to acknowledge those feelings. “It’s OK to feel a mix of emotions on your birthday. Instead of trying to suppress or ignore your feelings, acknowledge them, and give yourself permission to experience them,” Tzall says. 

If you’re like me and know you’re going to cry on your birthday, plan activities that will bring you joy. “This could be spending time with loved ones, engaging in a favorite hobby, or treating yourself to something special,” Tzall says. “Or, engage in activities that promote self-care and relaxation, such as taking a bubble bath, reading a book, meditating, or going for a walk.” Acknowledging, understanding, and reflecting on these emotions is one of the most healthy ways to cope with the birthday blues. 

While my birthday isn’t until January (P.S., I really want a Dyson Air Wrap…), I feel much more confident in understanding and accepting the feelings of sadness I will most likely have. If your birthday is approaching, understanding these feelings you may have is extremely helpful. In the meantime, listen to some happy (or sad) music, pick out a birthday outfit, and get ready to celebrate all of the ups and downs of growing up.

Eileen is a senior at Fairfield University who is studying Communications with minors in English, Professional Writing, and Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies. She has a passion for magazine writing and hopes to pursue a career in the field. Eileen is the Entertainment & Culture Intern at Her Campus where she covers all things pop culture, entertainment, and internet trends. Eileen was formerly a National Writer for Her Campus from April 2023 - January 2024. Eileen is one of the Campus Correspondents (CCs) at Her Campus' Fairfield University chapter. She oversees the entire chapter and works with her other CC to curate ideas and events for HCFU. She also mentors and trains the editorial team and helps create content and boost engagement alongside the social media team. In her free time, you can find Eileen creating new Spotify playlists, getting a sweet treat with friends, or obsessing over Taylor Swift. If she isn’t doing that, you’ll likely find Eileen with her six best friends from school talking about their “Big Three”: "Normal People," their favorite "Dancing With The Stars" performances, and Greta Gerwig's "Little Women."