Most of us understand at least something about depression. We know how harmful and heartbreaking it can be both for the sufferer and loved ones. Sadly we don’t always recognize it in others, especially if someone has “smiling depression.”
Depression looks different in different people. For some people, their sadness is masked with painted on smiles and repeated assurances of “I’m fine.”
There were 44,965 recorded suicides in 2016. That’s a breathtaking statistic. If I can do even one small thing to help a depressed person get relief, it’s important to try. I hope you’ll share this post with friends and relatives that might need encouragement. And if you’re smiling through the pain, I hope you’ll read this for yourself.
What Is Smiling Depression?
So “smiling depression” is another way some people may experience a depressive disorder. On the inside, they feel broken and hurt. But on the outside? They are smiling, active, social, and high-functioning.
You may be close to somebody right now who is suffering horribly but at first glance, you’d never know. Many people don’t even realize they’re depressed. They keep going and going and never ask for help.
In fact, you yourself may be experiencing smiling depression.
Symptoms of Depression
All the typical signs of clinical depression are a part of smiling depression.
You do not need to experience all of the signs below to be diagnosed with depression.
1. Changes in mood including anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or sadness
2. Difficulty with sleep including early awakening, excess sleepiness, insomnia, or restless sleep.
3. Problems in the body including excessive hunger, fatigue, loss of appetite, or restlessness.
4. Behavioral changes including agitation, excessive crying, irritability, or social isolation.
5. Cognitive issues including lack of concentration, slowness in most activities, or thoughts of suicide.
What Smiling Depression Looks Like
Folks who appear to be strong aren’t always. Often they’re ashamed to tell friends and family that they aren’t okay. These are the people who take pride in being the strong one, the one who never needs taking care of.
You’ll see their happy photos on Facebook and Instagram. They may say things like, “Oh, don’t worry about me. I’m just fine.”
Maybe they are ashamed that they aren’t as strong as they think they should be. If they grew up in a home that taught them that sadness is a weakness to be hidden, they still carry that belief.
They have unrealistic ideas about what life should be, or at least how to present their lives to the world around them.
It’s hard to recognize pain when someone doesn’t want it to be seen.
Are You Secretly Depressed But Still Smiling?
If you answer yes to the following questions, please see a doctor. (Just because you answer yes doesn’t mean you’re depressed, but they are worth examining.)
1. Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? The responsibility to be perfect every day can be very harmful to your spirit and your mind.
2. Are there people in your life who tell you to buck up and deal with your problems? If you’re dealing with that kind of environment, you probably need some help to learn to manage your feelings.
3. Is there an inner voice that tells you that whatever you’re going through isn’t bad enough to be sad? Do you believe that you can’t be sad because there are so many people in the world who are worse off?
4. Have you had a major life event (death, break-up, move, etc…) that you haven’t really dealt with?
5. Do you tell anyone who asks that you’re really fine, even though you know you’re not?
What You Can Do
Ask for help. If you have to do it in secret, that’s okay. There is no shame – none. There is only healing and help.
As for friends and family that you suspect may be smiling through depression, talk to them. Have a sit-down, face to face conversation with them and offer them your loving support. Encourage them to get help and offer to go with them if they are too nervous.
We care about you.