The saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” cautions against judging someone based on their appearance. But it is also applicable to describing someone who displays a sunny disposition and happy exterior in public but is actually suffering deep inside. This is called smiling depression.
People with smiling depression may appear happy and content on the outside, often projecting a cheery vibe and a near-perfect life.
Inside, these individuals may be struggling with prolonged sadness or depression. Their success in masking their struggles may then make them more vulnerable to depression. Others are less inclined to reach out and help someone who appears to be happy than those whose pain is more palpable.
Social media is reportedly contributing to this phenomenon, as it encourages the projection of perfection. It puts pressure on people to only share the positive aspects of life and hide the unpleasant ones. This only makes it all the more difficult to open up, seek help, and accept support.
How to Spot Smiling Depression
Here are some ways we can spot signs and symptoms of smiling depression in ourselves or detect it in others. Through vigilant compassion, we can provide timely support and intervention.
1. Visible Efforts to Appear Happy and Content
Depression does not have a single face. It varies from one person to another. And it may be diagnosed or not.
Sometimes, people with depression stick to the positive aspect of their behavior regardless of what they feel inside. They make an effort to mask how they are really feeling inside so others will not notice.
2. Feelings of Worthlessness
While it is natural to feel negative sentiments, prolonged sadness and a hopeless outlook towards life are some of the most common symptoms of depression.
This may evolve into feelings of worthlessness and emptiness, and a self-critical demeanor may develop with the individual asking “What’s the point?”
Those with smiling depression are able to avoid displaying these sentiments publicly. Such behavior may be clinical depression or situational depression.
Situational depression is also known as “adjustment disorder with depressed mood.” This condition often resolves in time and talking about it can ease recovery. On the other hand, clinical depression is a more severe mental health condition caused by a disturbance in the body’s neurotransmitters, thus interfering with daily functions.
3. Loss of Interest in Activities
Individuals struggling with smiling depression may not be interested in activities they once enjoyed. This is also a telltale symptom that one may notice when a loved one is suffering from depression.
4. Changes in Appetite and Sleep Problems
Physically being unable to do an activity is one reason why someone with smiling depression may stop doing activities they once enjoyed. This may be because of an overwhelming feeling of fatigue6 due to too much or too little sleep, or changes in appetite.
5. Loss of Concentration
When a person has trouble concentrating, trails off during conversations, or loses their train of thought, these may be symptoms of depression.
6. Physical Pains
In addition to weight changes and fatigue, some physical symptoms of concealed depression to look out for include backache, chronic pain conditions, digestive problems, and headache, among others.8
7. Avoiding Social Situations
Someone struggling with smiling depression may often cancel dinner plans with friends or loved ones. They may also prefer to be alone a lot, withdrawing from social situations because they are exhausted in making an effort to put on a happy face.
8. Often Irritable
Being impatient, grumpier than usual, or irritable are a few subtle symptoms of smiling depression.10 This is even more relevant if the person was once easygoing, compassionate, and patient.
9. Always Tired
Someone suffering from smiling depression may experience constant fatigue11 without any underlying cause. People with depression often feel very tired, and they will not be interested in doing any activity. Most of the time, they lack the energy or enthusiasm to do any task at all.
10. Turning to Coping Mechanisms
When depression becomes unbearable, one of the more evident symptoms of someone struggling with smiling depression is the sudden display of a coping mechanism. This may be in the form of alcohol consumption, compulsive shopping, or gambling.
How to Reach Out and Help
It is alright not to feel well if you are encountering challenges. You can be honest with yourself and others about having negative sentiments. You don’t always have to put up a brave front or look for the silver lining. Feel free to open up about your feelings to the people close to you or consider seeking professional help.
Be watchful for these signs in yourself and in others. If you or someone you know is exhibiting these behaviors, it is worthwhile to check in on them to let them know about your concern. Understand that what they are going through is valid, and they are not wrong for feeling the way they do. Let them express their feelings without judgment and remind them of your love. Listen actively, and offer emotional support.13 It is important to understand that those suffering from smiling depression, like most of us, seek love and acceptance.
Keep in mind that, sometimes, even the most well-intentioned people who care for a person experiencing depression can only do so much. Understand that one cannot simply talk another out of it. If they feel the need to seek medical attention or treatment, support them in their decision.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.