Smiling depression is a real thing, and it’s dangerous. The sadness of a frown could never compare to the hopeless truth behind the mask.

I’ve spent years, even decades living behind a mask. It’s not that hard to do, it’s easy to rise in the morning with the mask firmly in place, and go about the routine of maintaining everyone else’s happiness.

It’s a simple dance, step-by-step placement of the right words at the right time. A smile is always the icing on the cake, assuring that things are as they should be.

The objectivebe happy, and make sure they all think you’re happy as well. Sounds kind of like one of those television sitcoms from the 50s or maybe the Stepford Wives, a movie that portrays perfect women completing perfect tasks every single perfect day.

Wow, those two paragraphs exhausted me… but I’m still smiling.

Smiling depression

I’m not happy all the time, mind you, not really. I have a mental disorder, I smile because society expects me to. My depression is hidden deep behind the veneer of making sure no one feels uncomfortable.

But I really need to break this down for you, because at this point, you might be confused. This is what all my gibberish is about – asymptomatic depression or smiling depression.

First off, I want to help you understand smiling depression. This condition is marked by an outward appearance of happiness marked by inner turmoil.

Of course, most people never detect the inner turmoil part, only the cheerful facade. Even the victim of inner pain sometimes never faces their own depression. These feelings can be hidden from self just as well as they are hidden from those around us.

Who are these people behind the mask?

Smiling depression doesn’t just affect people with low incomes and sketchy lives. It doesn’t target dysfunctional homes and rebellious teens. Smiling depression, believe it or not, often affects seemingly happy couples, the educated, and the accomplished.

To the outside world, you got it, these victims seem like the most successful individuals. Take me, for instance, I always got compliments on my positive and cheerful demeanor.

There is danger behind the smile.

The worst part about smiling depression is the risk of suicide. Yes, this ailment is dangerous, and it’s simply because there are few who know the truth behind the smile.

Most people with smiling depression never give others a reason to worry about them. They are active, intelligent, and seem to be content with life for the most part. There are no warning signs, and suicides of this manner rock the community.

Basically, from my own experience with mental disorders and depression, I see the smiling type as a cover, and it is. For various reasons, some deny their true feelings because of shame, and others from denial, those that suffer from this issue are incapable of breaking down the barriers of their afflictions.

It has become instinctual to hide the way they really feel, or even to hide feelings from themselves. As for me, I know I’m depressed, I just don’t wish to share this darkness with those who refuse to understand, namely my closest family members.

Oh, how troubling this all seems. It sends a shiver down my own spine to think of those friends who have died without intervention. One of them could have been me, many times over.

There are ways to help

If you wish to help those with smiling depression, you have to learn the signs in order to confront the disease.  These signs may be evident to you or the one who suffers behind the mask. My aunt has intervened with my smiling depression on several occasions with statements such as…

“I know you’re not okay. You’re not fooling me, so let’s talk about it.”

This is what she saw that alerted her to a problem. These signs are noticed in many other ailments as well, but to her, the combination, paired with my fake positive attitude, pointed directly to depression. I may be fooling others, but she wasn’t having any of it.

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • The overall feeling that something isn’t right
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Fear

Pay attention to little cracks in the perfected facade. The more you pay attention, the more these signs will show through.

When you have a feeling that someone you love is suffering from smiling depression, try to talk to them about it. Maybe they will be able to share the truth and you can work on the solution together, even if it means learning to cope with the issue indefinitely.

Mental illness is serious business, and another way to help those with smiling depression is to kill the stigma. Many people hide away because of the way they are treated due to their conditions.

Eliminating shame will help bring many sick and hurting into the light, and support will finish the healing process.

Let’s remove the masks and face the world in truth!

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Meagan Derringer

    ” I smile because society expects me to. My depression is hidden deep behind the veneer of making sure no one feels uncomfortable.” This statement and your article bring up an interesting aspect that is true when one is dealing with trauma too. I work with other individuals who are dealing with the issue of nonconsensual human experimentation. It is very difficult to obtain an investigation much less legal redress for those claiming nonconsensual human experimentation. When authorities immediately deny an individual’s claims of abuse rather than investigate, others, including family members, tend to discount a victims’s claims as well. What happens in this climate of denial is that the individual is usually instead treated as if they were mentally ill for making the claims, and thus any further efforts to pursue an investigation are easily squelched by the threat of false mental illness labeling and even the threat of mental health commitment. So what do you think the victims end up doing? They have to learn to hide their pain, trauma, depression and fear in front of others in order to “make sure that no one feels uncomfortable.” Across the board these victims have come to know through experience that when other people get uncomfortable because of their behavior, which usually consists in speaking out publicly against the abuse they have experienced, the threat to many victims in this situation has been referal to mental health authorities for commitment or forced medication. While I don’t disparage mental health treatment for the emotional issues that can accompany victimization, I do have a problem with using treatment as a threat to autonomy for continued efforts by these victims to stand up for their self.

    I appreciate that you have brought up this interesting paradox, where the individual suffering, whether with depression or any other stigmatizing label, feels responsible for ensuring that no one feels uncomfortable and that no one else is inconvenienced by their pain.

  2. kim domingue

    I wasn’t aware that there was a name for what I do when I’m depressed. I slap a smiling mask on my face and soldier on. Depression is hard for those around you to have to live with no matter how much they love you. It’s especially hard when there’s no reason for the depressive episode, you’re suddenly just depressed.

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