The Anniversary Effect

Have you ever noticed that your emotions can get all mushy around an anniversary?

I don’t mean a birthday or a wedding but a significant event that has more unsettling memories attached to it.

The “Anniversary Effect” is the name given to the feelings and thoughts that occur on or around a date that you associate with a traumatic event.

You might have received some bad news and the date is etched into your mind so that when it comes along you can feel quite angry or anxious.

You might start to feel irritable or sad in the days leading up to the anniversary and find sleeping difficult. This is a normal and common reaction to trauma.

Remember too, not all survivors of a disaster or traumatic event experience an anniversary reaction.

The life event could equate to any number of negative experiences (death, a natural disaster, Covid, a break-up etc) and when that anniversary comes around things can get intense and you might go through a period of not being yourself and have difficulty coping with your routine.

The truth is, the disturbing thoughts and unpleasant memories you have never really go away but they come to the surface on or around the date something bad happened.

I get the anniversary effect in association with the cancer diagnosis and the doctor who told me I only had two months to live and it reminds me of grief and mourning but also anger, fear and flashbacks.

As we move away from the anniversary, we put the memory away but our brains don’t erase it but store it for easy access so we can be reminded of the event and the dangers to protect us from something similar happening again.

But on the flip side of this, the anniversary effect can provide us with an opportunity to heal. We can be mindful of our feelings and behaviours and gain more control and perspective rather than let them overwhelm us and control us.

Recovery from a traumatic event inevitably takes time and it requires rebuilding physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

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