Smiling Depression: Taking Off the Mask

For many people who suffer from depression, it is apparent to those around them.  The outward sadness, lethargy, loss of appetite, loss of motivation, and the inability to do simple things in life are obvious red flags to friends and loved ones.  For others, it’s not so obvious.  Although they suffer from symptoms of depression when they are alone but they are somehow able to put on a happy face, a mask, and hide their depression from those around them.  This is called “Smiling Depression”.

Despite looking like they’ve got it all together on the outside, they don’t and on the inside behind closed doors, their depression is very real.  Someone with Smiling Depression can hold down a job, have a social life, and seem happy.  This only means they are high-functioning, they’re able to function normally while depression takes a strong foothold in their emotional lives.

Who’s at Risk

Smiling Depression can have triggers and certain people may be more susceptible to developing it or specific circumstances can cause it.

Important life changes.  Job loss or an ending relationship can be traumatic and is a common cause of depression.

Social media.  Everyone’s connected to some form of social media.  Social media creates a false sense of perfection as people post pictures of themselves having fun and being happy and rarely shows the unhappy parts of life.  This breeds self-doubt, insecurity, and inadequacy.

Fear of judgment.  In many cultures, depression has a stigma and there’s pressure to keep any kind of mental illness secret and hidden.  This is especially true for men who are often under pressure to follow a “boys don’t cry” belief.

Unwavering expectations.  Expectations are all around, from co-workers, family, and friends.  We even have our own expectations that are often too high to meet.

How To Know If You Have Smiling Depression

Everyone gets sad now and then and feels stress but smiles through it but this doesn’t mean it’s Smiling Depression.  You may convince yourself that you don’t have depression because you’re able to muddle through the day but it may only mean that you’ve got a good mask.  So good that even you believe it.  Here are a few things that might indicate you’ve got Smiling Depression:

  • Getting ready for work or for going out is achievable but it’s a huge struggle.
  • You have conversations at work or with friends and can even smile and laugh but you feel empty.  It doesn’t feel real.
  • You can do the work but it takes great effort to focus.
  • When you get home from work or going out, you collapse out of sheer exhaustion from the effort it took for you to hold it all together for so long.
  • Self-care is neglected.  You do the bare minimum to get yourself ready to go anywhere, and your food choices, when you do eat, are anything but healthy.
  • You are constantly filled with negative feelings like shame or guilt because of the way you’re feeling.
  • You have passive thoughts about suicide.  You’re not actively suicidal but you think thoughts about how it would be okay if you died.

Diagnosing depression in someone who is able to put on a happy mask can be difficult.  You may be hiding it for a reason.  Maybe you’re embarrassed or don’t want to be a burden on someone else.  Maybe you fear the backlash, that friends or family will think you’re weak or leave you.  If you think you may be suffering from Smiling Depression, you must put all of these obstacles behind you and get help.

The Danger

People who suffer from Smiling Depression may be more at risk of suicide than those with Major Depressive Disorder.  People with MDD often struggle with simply getting out of bed, let alone take action on suicidal thoughts.  That isn’t to say that suicide isn’t a risk with MDD, it is, of course, but with Smiling Depression, you may have the energy to follow through on suicidal thoughts.

What To Do

If you or someone you know may be suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 immediately.

If you feel that you or a loved one may be hiding their depression behind a smiling mask, seek the help of a doctor or therapist.  Depression can often be treated with psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.  SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357) can help you find resources if you’re unsure where to turn.  It’s time to remove the mask and get help.

In cases where there is no relief from symptoms of MDD using medication, TMS therapy may be able to help.  Transcranial Magnetic Therapy is a safe, FDA-approved therapy involving magnets to stimulate areas of the brain associated with MDD and can provide safe, drug-free relief or even remission from the symptoms of depression that can be so debilitating. At GatewayTMS, we provide TMS treatments in a calming, relaxed atmosphere and are focused on your health and wellbeing.  Call GatewayTMS today at (314)909-8487 to find out if TMS is right for you.