When people think of depression, they often think of someone who sleeps all day, isolates themselves, lacks interest in daily activities, etc. Most people would be surprised to hear about a form of depression referred to as “smiling depression.” This is when people appear to be happy and functioning normally in society, but they are masking symptoms of depression.
The key image that represents this disorder is wearing a “mask.” A mask that is smiling and interacting while the person is hurting inside. People with smiling depression can be hard to diagnose because their symptoms are so hidden. They can also be more prone to suicide as they are used to taking action despite the depression.
You may have heard of a “high-functioning alcoholic.” This is someone who can still maintain many of the expectations of society despite their substance abuse disorder. High-functioning depression acts in much the same way. The person who is affected can still function in society but is hiding their disorder underneath the surface. They may have jobs, a circle of friends, and engage in social activities.
If you’re expecting to find someone who physically looks sad and displays many of the characteristics of depression, such as lethargy and fatigue, think again. When someone is suffering from smiling depression, even their closest friends are unaware of what’s going on internally. This is one of the reasons that people with smiling depression are at such a high risk. No one even suspects that they need help or intervention to manage their symptoms, and they can quickly escalate out of control.
Higher Suicide Risk
People with high functioning depression often have a higher risk of committing suicide. Not only are their symptoms masked, and friends and family don’t see they need to intervene, but they have learned to follow through with things in their life despite the depression.
According to a 2014 article on “The Secret Pain of ‘Smiling Depression’” in Psychology Today, many people who are depressed may have suicidal ideation, but they are so depressed that they fail to act on those thoughts. Not so much in the case of smiling depression. The combination of masked symptoms with suicidal ideation makes them a higher risk than conventional depression. Most people can think of an instance when someone they knew or celebrities have committed suicide, and everyone was shocked because they seemed so happy. That’s a classic case of smiling depression.
What Are the Symptoms?
While someone with high-functioning depression will usually try to mask it, you may suddenly notice that they are sleeping a lot more and taking naps during the day. Conversely, they may show insomnia. Their appetite may change; they eat too much or too little, and, as a result, you may see marked changes in their weight in a short time. They may also experience elevated anxiety or panic attacks.
Some symptoms are a little more subtle, such as irritability, indecision, isolation, a lack of interest in any of the activities they previously enjoyed, and excessive mood swings. They may begin to abuse substances to try to self-medicate to feel better. Whenever there is a significant change in the status quo for a person, there is usually something going on or something wrong that triggers it. It may be a one-time traumatic event, but it could also signal the long-lasting effects of depression.
It can be difficult to confront someone with smiling depression because they will likely deny that there is anything wrong. They may not even realize it themselves. As uncomfortable as it may be, ensuring that someone is not suffering in silence can range from helping their emotional state to saving their life.
People who suffer from smiling depression are often overachievers or perfectionists, and they don’t want to let anyone know they are “failing” from their perspective. They want to try to handle the problem themselves, especially if they broached the subject and it was brushed aside in the past. They may not want to be a burden on other people as they see it.
What if You are Suffering From Smiling Depression?
If the person who needs help is you, you need to reach out to friends and family or even a professional. You may think you can–and should–handle this burden yourself, but nothing could be further from the truth. You only need to reach out to one person you trust and let them know what’s really behind the smiling mask that you’re wearing. There are many treatments for depression, and you don’t have to suffer alone. It’s time to let the burden go or find some help, so you don’t have to carry it all on your shoulders.
“Smiling depression” can be difficult to treat and even harder to diagnose. People suffering from this condition have developed ways to master depression so that family and friends often have no idea of the sadness lurking behind their smiles. They appear happy and may have jobs, friends, and what appears to be a normal life, but are suffering from depression in silence and alone. They are also more at risk for suicidal ideation. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we treat mental health issues as well as substance abuse disorders. At our Riverside, California campus, you will feel at home with our professional staff and home-cooked meals. We can help through counseling and progressive therapies such as our art and equine therapy. We also offer yoga to find your inner balance and hikes in nature. You don’t have to suffer behind with depression alone. We can help. Call us at (866) 338-6925.