When you think of depression, you probably imagine someone moping, tucked under the covers all day, unable to muster the energy to get out of bed. For some people with the condition, however, there are none of these telltale signs. Instead, although they may feel lethargic, worthless, and sad on the inside, they appear perfectly happy on the outside. They skillfully mask their feelings and power through their days, appearing so cheerful that some people refer to this condition as “smiling depression.”
Although it isn’t recognized as a clinical diagnosis, smiling depression is real, and it affects more people than you might think. Consider the number of celebrity suicides of people who were too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help (from Ernest Hemingway, Judy Garland, and Junior Seau to Robin Williams, Mindy McCready, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Anthony Bourdain). On the outside, they seemed like they had everything; on the inside, they were suffering.
You may be suffering too.
Hiding the Hurt
People who hide their feelings may experience all the typical
symptoms of depression, including:
- Persistent negative moods and sadness
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive crying
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of libido
- Thoughts of death or suicide
For someone with smiling depression, however, they tend to
“fake” happiness, forcing themselves to appear optimistic. Outwardly, they look
like the picture of success. They often perform well on the job, work out on a
regular basis, take good care of the family, and still find time for an active
social life. Everything looks completely normal, but it’s all a façade. Even
though they may be laughing with friends or coworkers, they actually feel empty
and disconnected inside.
Reasons Why People Hide Depression
There are many reasons why you might keep depressive
symptoms private. For example, you may:
- Think mental illness is a character flaw or personal weakness
- Be ashamed of your feelings
- Want to avoid being a burden on friends and family
- Be in denial about your symptoms
- Fear discrimination in the workplace
- Want to avoid being labeled a complainer
- Have already unsuccessfully tried antidepressants and think you’re out of treatment options
Whatever is motivating you to internalize your feelings, be
aware that keeping it all bottled up has consequences.
The Hidden Danger of Smiling Depression
People with depression are prone to thoughts about death and suicide. In typical depression, people generally lack the energy to act on their suicidal thoughts. Those with smiling depression, however, tend to have the energy required to plan and act on such thoughts. For this reason, someone who is hiding their depression from the world could be at greater risk of attempting suicide. On top of this, because they are keeping their pain inside, they are less likely to reach out to friends or family for support or to seek help. This compounds depression and adds to the risk.
Finding Hope, Seeking Help
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression but hiding it
from everyone (including yourself), understand that there is hope and there is
help. Follow these 3 steps to put yourself on the path to healing.
1. Start by choosing someone you trust with whom you can share your feelings. Opening up about your inner pain may help you cope with some of your symptoms.
2. The next critical step is seeking a diagnosis. Finding a practitioner who understands that mental health conditions are based on the biology of the brain and who utilizes functional brain imaging can help you see that your problems aren’t a sign of psychological weakness but rather a biological and treatable problem.
3. Getting the right treatment plan depends on the type of depression you have. Brain imaging studies have identified 7 different types of depression, and treatment needs to be tailored to your type. In addition, the most effective treatment plans go beyond antidepressants and can include diet and exercise recommendations, nutritional supplements, strategies to eliminate negative thinking patterns (killing the ANTs, or automatic negative thoughts), psychotherapy, and more.
Don’t let smiling depression keep you down. You deserve to feel as happy on the inside as you look on the outside.
At Amen Clinics, we use brain SPECT imaging, as well as an all-encompassing 4-circle approach that looks at biological, psychological, social, and spiritual elements to diagnose and treat depression symptoms. By using the least toxic, most effective personalized solutions, we have helped thousands of people overcome symptoms of depression. To learn more or to schedule your comprehensive evaluation, please visit us online or call 888-288-9834.