"Smile Depression": It's possible to be depressed while looking happy



The term "smiling depression" – seeming happy to others while suffering internally from depressive symptoms – has become increasingly popular. Articles on the subject have been published in popular literature and the number of Google searches on this disease has increased significantly this year. Some may, however, wonder if it is a true pathological condition. Although the term smiling depression is not a technical term used by psychologists, it is certainly possible to be depressed and effectively mask the symptoms. The technical term closest to this condition is "atypical depression". In fact, a significant proportion of people who have a low mood and a loss of pleasure in the activities manage to hide their condition in this way. And these people could be particularly vulnerable to suicide.
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Putting on a mask does not help depression. Alyssa L. Miller / Flickr, CC BY-SA

Olivia Remes, University of Cambridge

It can be very difficult to spot people suffering from depression. They can appear as if they had no reason to be sad – they had a job, an apartment and maybe even children or a partner. They smile when you greet them and can lead pleasant conversations. In short, they put a mask on the outside world while leading an apparently normal and active life.

Inside, however, they feel hopeless and depressed, sometimes even thinking of everything. The strength they have to lead their daily lives can make them particularly vulnerable to the realization of their suicide plans. This contrasts with other forms of depression, in which people might have an idea of ​​suicide but not enough energy to act according to their intentions.

Although people suffering from depression have a "happy face" vis-à-vis the outside world, they can experience a real upsurge of mood as a result of positive events in their lives. For example, receiving an SMS from someone they want to hear or who is hired at work can help them feel better for a few moments before becoming weak again.

People with a smiling depression may feel better temporarily. Production at 16h / Shutterstock

Other symptoms of this disease include overeating, feeling heavy in the arms and legs, and being easily hurt by criticism or rejection. People suffering from depression are also more likely to feel depressed at night and feel the need to sleep longer than usual. However, with other forms of depression, your mood may get worse in the morning and you may feel the need to sleep less than usual.

Smiling depression seems to be more common in people with certain temperaments. In particular, it is linked to the fact that it is more inclined to anticipate failure, that it is difficult to overcome embarrassing or humiliating situations, and that it tends to ruminate or think excessively about negative have occurred.

Women's Health magazine captured the essence of smiling depression – the facade – by asking women to share photos from their social media and then recapturing them on Instagram with what they actually felt as they took the picture. . Here are some of their messages.

Charge and treatment

It is difficult to determine exactly what causes the smiling depression, but a low mood can come from a number of things, such as work problems, a broken relationship and the feeling that your life does not make sense neither sense.

It's very common. About one in ten people are depressed and between 15% and 40% of them suffer from an atypical form that looks like a smiling depression. Such depression often begins early in life and can last a very long time. If you suffer from smiling depression, it is therefore particularly important to get help. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case for people with this condition, as they may not think they have a problem in the first place – this is particularly the case if they seem to continue to perform their tasks. and their daily routines as before. They may also feel guilty and explain that they have nothing to fear. So, they do not talk to anyone about their problems and end up ashamed of their feelings.

So, how can you break this cycle? A starting point is to know that this condition really exists and is serious. Only when we stop rationalizing our problems, because we think they are not serious enough, that we can really make a difference. For some, this idea may be enough to change things because it puts them on the path to seeking help and freeing themselves from the chains of depression that held them back.

Exercise and meditation can help. Yuganov Konstantin / Shutterstock

It has also been shown that meditation and physical activity have enormous benefits for mental health. In fact, a study by Rutgers University in the United States showed that people who practiced meditation and physical activity twice a week had a fall of almost 40% in their level of depression in eight weeks only. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves learning how to change your thinking patterns and behavior, is another option for people affected by this disease. And finding meaning in life is of utmost importance. The Austrian neurologist Viktor Frankl has written that the cornerstone of good mental health is having a purpose in life. He said that we should not seek to be in a "state without tension", without responsibilities and without challenges, but rather that we should strive for something in life. We can find a purpose by withdrawing attention from ourselves and placing it on something else. So find a worthy goal and try to progress steadily, even if it's a small amount each day, because it can really have a positive impact.

We can also find a purpose by taking care of someone else. When we turn away from the stage and start thinking about the needs and desires of someone else, we begin to feel that our lives matter. This can be achieved by volunteering, or taking care of a family member or even an animal.

The feeling that our lives matter, it's ultimately what gives us purpose and meaning – and that can make a significant difference to our mental health and well-being.The conversation

Olivia Remes, doctoral candidate, University of Cambridge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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