Smiling Depression: What It Is, What To Do

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It's a familiar lesson on what depression looks like that we learn from every rom-com we've ever watched.  Depression means:

  • Sitting on the sofa or curled up in bed
  • Hagen Daaz 'carmel cone mixed with salty tears' flavor faithfully at hand
  • Bummy clothes you'd never let anyone but the seamless delivery guy see you in
  • Bad tv
  • Hot-mess hair
  • A mandatory moat of used tissues around you.
  • (Alcohol almost definitely makes a cameo at some point.)

While all of the above makes for the light-hearted emotional fodder necessary in second-rate plot lines, it has very little to do with what depression actually looks like.

In actuality, depression can look like a myriad of scenes.  You're crushing it at work, socializing on the weekends, eating healthy foods consistently and looking completely pulled together, for example.

You may also be smiling a lot?

Yep, pop psychology's newest inductee is here to emphasize the different presentations of depression, and how one form of depression in particular can go unnoticed (i.e. untreated) for way too long.

In many ways, smiling depression is more insidious than depression with a classic presentation of symptoms.  Not just more insidious, but potentially more dangerous.

Without a major sign of depression present (like staying home from work for 4 days straight because you can't get out of bed) there's no call to action to seek support.  There's little to no awareness that you might be depressed.

What happens when you're not aware that you're depressed?

The absence of the more obvious signs of depression strips the sufferers of smiling depression of their own entitlement to slow down and really explore what's happening. The mentality becomes, "I know I don't feel like myself, but nothing is wrong.  Push through, keep moving, shake it off, get over it."  Days and weeks and years can get lost in a 'going through the motions' type of lifestyle that ultimately feels vastly empty and unfulfilling.  Because you don't know you're depressed, you falsely attribute that constant negative feeling to just a part of who you are.

What's worse, you adjust and get used to it.

Particularly in professions which require you to be upbeat, positive and connective, smiling depression can hit hard.

The good news is that smiling depression is one of the most treatable mental health problems.  Even just the recognition that this is what you're going through can alleviate some pressure surrounding this issue, particularly the pressure to feel something other than what you're naturally feeling right now.

To learn more about smiling depression, maybe read this, or this.  If you're concerned you might be suffering from this particular kind of depression, it's incredibly important to connect yourself to support.  Use this therapist locator to find a therapist near you, or connect with me directly.  Connecting to support is the greatest sign of strength and emotional maturity there is, so if you know deep down that a little extra help would make things easier on you, don't hesitate to connect to it.