Have you ever heard of smiling depression? It’s a form of depression in which a person seems happy and thriving on the outside, while inside they are severely struggling. Smiling depression, also known as walking depression or high-functioning depression, is one of the most dangerous forms of depression because it can go entirely undetected, making it less likely for those who struggle with it to get the support or treatment they need. Because they don’t show signs like people with other forms of depression, individuals with smiling depression can also be at higher risk of suicide.
When you think of someone struggling with depression, you may think about someone who is consistently sad and acts distant. While in many cases, people who suffer from depression are sad, lethargic, and full of despair, it’s important to recognize that depression can look different for everyone. This is why it is so important to always check in on those around you.
Is Smiling Depression a Real Thing?
Although “smiling depression” is not recognized as a distinct condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM-5”), those who may show symptoms would likely be diagnosed with major depressive disorder with atypical features, forming what is known as atypical depression. It is important to seek treatment to be properly diagnosed and to receive effective treatment.
How to Identify Smiling Depression
A person who suffers from smiling depression may appear to have it all together. They can act entirely normal and have a well-arranged public life. Their social media presence may look almost perfect, showing only images of their best, happiest selves.
On the inside, however, individuals with smiling depression are experiencing the distressful symptoms of depression. While the symptoms may be essentially identical to those of major depressive disorder, what makes them atypical is the fact that the person is experiencing them internally and not visibly expressing them. People with smiling depression can also experience a lift in mood due to positive events around them, further enhancing the facade that they are emotionally healthy.
False beliefs can prevent individuals with smiling depression from seeking support and treatment. Here are some examples of common false beliefs:
- “I can’t complain because so many people have it way worse than I do.”
- “My parents have a lot on their plate already; I don’t need to add any more stress or worry to their lives.”
- “Asking for help is a sign of weakness.”
- “Everybody thinks I’m doing great, and I don’t want to disappoint them.”
- “I just need to suck it up.”
- “It’s not really that bad.”
Smiling Depression and the Risk of Suicide
Because the person appears to be happy and content on the outside and doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of depression, family and friends often fail to notice that someone with smiling depression is struggling at all. In some cases, the person themselves may not even realize they are depressed. This can create extremely dangerous internal conditions. One of the biggest risks of smiling depression is that it goes unnoticed, untreated, and ultimately ends in tragedy.
Teens with Smiling Depression
Teenagers can often seem full of energy while internally experiencing intense symptoms of depression. Teens coping with smiling depression often feel isolated and obligated to put on a happy face for the world. Internally, they are exhausted from the facade that masks their depression, and often experience deep anxiety as they try to hide their symptoms from those around them. Other symptoms teens may experience include:
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling “too fast” or “too slow”
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lack of self-confidence and self-worth
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loneliness
Teens with smiling depression are often able to hide their symptoms from close friends and parents. It is vital that parents watch out for physical and behavioral signs that their teen is struggling internally. Some important signs to look out for include:
- Changes in their sleep patterns, including sleeping too much or too little
- Significant changes in their appetite and/or weight
- Feelings of heaviness in their arms and legs
- Complaints of body aches and/or headaches
- Substance abuse
- Extreme reactions to what they feel is rejection or criticism
Seeking Help for Smiling Depression
Since the warning signs of smiling depression can be so subtle, it is extremely important to maintain open, honest communication with your loved ones. Cultivating a space that is safe and judgment-free can help those struggling with any form of depression to feel comfortable enough to reach out for your help.
Smiling depression, also known as walking depression or high-functioning depression, can affect anyone. Symptoms can look different than the common stereotypes of depression, making it a difficult condition to detect. On the outside, those struggling with smiling depression appear to be happy and thriving, while on the inside they are dealing with severe, life-consuming symptoms. Teens with smiling depression can often keep their symptoms hidden especially well from their friends and family members and may cultivate a strong image on social media that portrays someone who has a perfect life and who is extremely happy. Because symptoms can go undetected, those with smiling depression are at higher risk of suicide. If you or someone you love are struggling with any symptoms of depression, reach out to Achieve Concierge today. We have a stellar team of clinicians who can help children, teens, or adults overcome mental illness and achieve emotional health. Call us at (619) 393-5871 to learn more.