Not funny: the hidden pain of a “smiling” depression
Man among people
It’s hard to believe, but very many just seem happy, but in fact, every day they fight with depressive thoughts. Usually people with depression seem gloomy, lethargic, indifferent to everything. But in fact, according to studies by the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 10% of US citizens suffer from depression, which is 10 times the number of people suffering from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
And while everyone experiences depression in their own way. Some people don’t even know that they have this disorder, especially if they think that they are in control of their daily lives. It seems impossible that someone can smile, joke, work and be depressed at the same time. But, unfortunately, this happens quite often.
What is a “smiling” depression
“In my practice, most of those for whom the diagnosis of depression was a shock, suffered precisely from a“ smiling ”depression. Some have not even heard of her, ”says psychologist Rita Labon. A person with such a disorder seems to be happy around, constantly laughs and smiles, but actually experiences deep sadness.
A “smiling” depression often goes unnoticed. They try to ignore it, drive the symptoms as deep as possible. Patients either do not know about their disorder, or prefer not to notice it for fear of being known as weak.
A smile and a radiant “facade” are simply protective mechanisms to hide real feelings. A person yearns for a break with a partner, difficulties in work or lack of goals in life. And sometimes she just feels: something is wrong – but does not know what exactly.
This kind of depression can be even more dangerous than its classic form.
Also, this type of depression is accompanied by anxiety, fear, anger, chronic fatigue, a sense of hopelessness and disappointment in oneself and in life. There may be problems with sleep, lack of pleasure from what was previously liked, decreased sexual desire. Everyone has their own symptoms, and depression can manifest itself as one, or all at once.
“People with“ smiling ”depression seem to wear masks. They may not show others that they feel bad, ”says Rita Labon. – They work full time, engage in farming, sports, lead an active social life. Hiding under a mask, they demonstrate that everything is good, even excellent. At the same time, they experience sadness, experience panic attacks, are not confident in themselves, and even sometimes think about suicide. ”
Suicide is a real danger to such people. Usually people suffering from classic depression can also think of suicide, but they don’t have enough strength to make their thoughts come true. Those who suffer from “smiling” depression are energetic enough to plan and carry out suicide. Therefore, this type of depression can be even more dangerous than its classic form.
“Smiling” depression can and should be treated
However, there is good news for those suffering from this ailment – help is easy to get. Psychotherapy successfully copes with depression. If you suspect that your loved one or close friend is suffering from a “smiling” depression, he may deny it or react negatively when you first talk about his condition.
This is normal. Usually people do not recognize their ailment, and the word “depression” sounds threatening to them. Remember that they think asking for help means being weak. They believe that treatment is only needed for truly sick people.
The longer you continue to deny the diagnosis and avoid the problem, the more difficult it will be to cure the disease
In addition to therapy, it helps to share your problem with loved ones. It is best to choose the closest family member, friend, or person you can fully trust. Regular discussion of the problem can reduce the symptoms of the disease. It is important to get rid of the thought that you are a burden. Sometimes we forget that our loved ones and friends will be happy to support us as much as we would support them. The ability to share feelings gives strength to get rid of depressive thoughts.
The longer you continue to deny the diagnosis and avoid the problem, the more difficult it will be to cure the disease. When depressive thoughts and feelings are not uttered, they are not treated, they only get worse, therefore it is so important to seek help in time.
4 steps to take control of a “smiling” depression
Laura Kovard, a psychologist and member of the National Alliance for Mental Illness, believes that with a “smiling” depression, a person would seem to be quite content with life, but he smiles through pain.
Often, patients with this disorder ask a psychologist: “I have everything you can wish for. So why am I not happy? ”A recent study in which 2000 women took part showed that 89% of them suffer from depression, but hide it from friends, relatives and colleagues. What is important, all these women live a full life.
What can you do if you have symptoms of smiling depression?
1. Recognize that you are sick
A difficult task for those who suffer from a “smiling” depression. “They often devalue their own feelings, push them inside. They are afraid that they will be considered weak when they learn about the disease, ”says Rita Labon. But an ongoing feeling of sadness, loneliness, hopelessness and even anxiety are signs of emotional stress, not weakness. Your feelings are normal, they are a signal that something is wrong, that you need help and communication.
2. Talk to someone you trust
A huge problem for those suffering from this type of depression is that they try to hide the symptoms from others. It hurts you, but you are afraid that friends and family will not understand your feelings, they will be upset and confused because they will not know what to do. Or are you just sure that no one can help you.
Yes, others will not be able to “take” your negative feelings, but it is important to put them into words, talk with someone you trust, with whom you are comfortable. This is a huge step towards recovery. That is why, when we speak out problems with a therapist, we feel better.
You will be surprised how effective the effect of a simple conversation can be.
“First you need to choose one person: a friend, relative, psychologist – and tell him about your feelings,” advises Rita Labon. – Explain that in general, everything is normal in your life, but you do not feel as happy as you look. Remind him and yourself that you are not asking for the problems to go away in an instant. You just check to see if a discussion of your condition helps you. ”
Be prepared for the fact that the conversation will not help. If you are not used to discussing your feelings, you may feel anxiety, discomfort, stress. But give yourself and your loved one time, and you will be surprised how effective and lasting the effect of a simple conversation can be.
3. Take care of your self-esteem
Sometimes a little self-doubt is normal, but not when everything is already so bad. At such moments, we “achieve” our own self-esteem. Meanwhile, self-esteem is similar to the emotional immune system, it helps to cope with problems, but it also needs to be strengthened and supported.
One way to do this is to write a letter to yourself, and in it you will feel sorry for yourself, support and encourage as you would support a friend. Thus, you will practice self-support, self-compassion, which is so lacking for those who suffer from “smiling” depression.
4. If your friend is suffering – let me speak out, listen
Sometimes someone else’s pain is harder to endure than your own, but you can still help if you listen to another. Remember – it is impossible to take away negative feelings and emotions. Do not try to console and fix everything, just make it clear that you love a loved one, even if he is not as perfect as he wants to be. Just let him talk. Actively listening means showing that you really hear and understand what it is about. Say that you sympathize, ask what can be done.
If after a conversation it seems to you that you need to do something, first discuss this with a loved one suffering from depression. Express compassion, explain in detail what you plan to do and why, and listen carefully to the answer.
If it comes to professional help, share your positive treatment experience, if you have one, or just cheer up. Often friends come along with the patient or patients come on the recommendation of friends, and then meet for a walk or for a cup of coffee immediately after therapy.
You may not need to wait after the session or discuss the outcome of the conversation with a psychologist. For starters, just support a friend – this will be enough.