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What is the Anniversary Effect?

The Anniversary Effect is when you have an emotional reaction on the anniversary of some important event. We typically think of anniversaries as positive occasions, usually a celebration of another year in a relationship. There are plenty of other kinds of anniversaries, some of which may stir up conflicted to negative emotions. A common one is the anniversary of a loved one’s death.

It’s important to be aware of the Anniversary Effect because you may find yourself suddenly feeling anxious or depressed without knowing why. If you think about it, you may realize it’s the anniversary of some difficult experience. Even if you don’t specifically remember the the date of some traumatic event, there are plenty of seasonal cues you may have associated with the event. Maybe there was Christmas music on the radio, or maybe it was the Fourth of July and you could smell the hamburgers on the grill. Your brain notices a lot more than you do.

Having sudden feelings of gloom or anxiety are worse if you don’t know where they come from. If you feel bad for no apparent reason, you may feel like a victim of anxiety or depression. Being able to identify an external cause, especially if it’s a cause that’s easily understood, such as the anniversary of a loved one’s death, gives you a better sense of control. You understand you’re not a basketcase, suffering needlessly at the whim of your own faulty wiring. The anniversary of a sad event is a perfectly normal thing to feel bad about. You can acknowledge that feeling as appropriate and understandable, thus reducing its power over you.

This is especially important during recovery because these challenging emotions can escalate and lead to relapse. Uncovering the cause of these moods can remind you they are only temporary and they will pass if you can just hang in there a little while. It might be a good idea to look ahead at the beginning of the week or month so you’re aware if a potentially troublesome anniversary is coming up.

When you feel like you are in the grip of the Anniversary Effect, there are some ways to deal with it. Talk to someone who understands, whether it’s a friends, a relative, a therapist, or your group. You don’t have deal with it alone. Writing about it also helps. Writing about the original situation and your feelings at the time gives you a sense of control over it. Writing about your feelings now does the same.

Managing your mood is essential in recovery, and being aware of the Anniversary Effect can help when a challenging emotion hits you out of left field. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.