What You Need to Know About Smiling Depression

Updated on November 26, 2020

People who suffer from Smiling Depression can appear well-adjusted, presentable, professionally successful and apparently happy. They’re not, and they need help to feel better about life, including themselves.

smiling depression

Smiling depression is a deceiving in that it implies happiness though it’s absent from the person’s mindset. It isolates those that experience it, making it more difficult to deal sadness. Though they might not realize that they’re at risk for falling apart and even suicide, the smilers strive to conceal their misery from the public, rationalizing the effort somehow.

Why Would Anyone Smile while Depressed?

Smiling Depression is a façade, a tool for preventing the acknowledgement of inner turmoil and the need to overcome it. A mask that covers up an anxious person’s concerns and uncertainties – including possible job loss or family problems if anyone realizes the truth, smiling depression tends to be a problem among perfectionists and people burdened with more than their fair share of responsibility.

If you’ve ever remarked, “I had no idea…”, upon learning of a person’s despair-induced suicide attempt, nervous breakdown or confession of feeling worthless, you may likely have been exposed to smiling depression. It’s quite startling and confusing to most onlookers. But it is not an unknown phenomenon to mental health professionals.

In some cases, people smiling through depression self-medicate with caffeinated beverages to energize themselves, and with substance abuse that can kill them as it anesthetizes inner pain. Emotionally overwhelmed or feeling somehow inadequate, depressed smilers are determined to conceal their unhappiness for career, social and other reasons. No matter the rationale or the amount of effort to disguise depressing thoughts, those sufferers need psychological help, a reality that they struggle to deny themselves for one rationalized “reason” or another.

A false front of optimism and well-being, smiling depression is a coping mechanism that backfires. Sufferers might convince themselves that they can persevere past some serious problem unassisted. They might believe that they’ll benefit somehow from hiding their fears, self-contempt or other negative mindset. None of the people deceiving themselves this way know if their situation is temporary or long-term, and they certainly don’t know how to end the problem. The deep unhappiness warrants mental health intervention to alleviate the suffering. The evidence of that will show up in the smiler’s deteriorating physical health, disrupted sexual functions, sleep problems and, eventually, their failed efforts to hide the overall problem from the public.

The National Alliance on Mental Health has an online fact sheet about smiling depression. Smiling Depression is a serious problem for anyone hiding behind laughter, and a seemingly happy face no matter where they live.

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What Can Be Done to Help Others Cope With Smiling Depression?

In the event that you learn of someone’s severe hidden depression, their efforts to hide it, and/or their intention to harm themselves, you should begin by expressing compassion.

Skip the lectures about faith in God, morality and the like. Don’t demean the sufferer’s pain by denying its causes or giving them fortune cookie wisdom. Your judgmental response will alienate the person suffering behind a contrived grin, and possibly prevent them from seeking the help they need somewhere else.

Instead, express genuine concern and offer specific efforts to help the person to find an insightful therapist who can help them past the agony. Honor their courage in speaking with you. Confessing to such inner pain is no simple feat.

Are You a Depressed Smiler?

If you are feel that you may be experiencing symptoms of depression, you should seek out a professional therapist. A therapist can offer ideas for ending the problems that hurt you, and help you to put life into a less daunting perspective. You can also focus on techniques to increase your composure and sense of positivity as follows:

  • Make positive speech a constant in your life. Speak in pleasant ways to yourself though it will feel contrived and artificial at first. Practice until it feels soothing and natural, even though it will take time for you to feel “up” and not “down.”
  • Confide your feelings and concerns with a trusted friend or multiple friends. Let them soothe you, too. They just might have insights that benefit you.
  • Consult a mental health professional who leaves you feeling comfortable, optimistic and focused on can-do solutions to your problems.
  • Reduce your time on social media, where people try to impress the wider world with edited photos and tales of exciting adventures. They might be false, exaggerated or otherwise inappropriate. Credibility is sorely lacking on social media, where people can portray falsehoods at will. There’s no need to expose yourself or anyone to the pretense, then wonder why your life isn’t just as wonderful.
  • Indulge in relaxing, rewarding hobbies that suit your interests, skills and needs. Nurturing yourself this way can allow your heart and mind to rest, to reach helpful insights and to reject ideas that harm you.

Above all, know that you are not alone. Many fine people suffer from smiling depression. After taking action and working with a therapist, they often are able to move past the anguish and experience true happiness.

Yocheved Golani is a popular writer whose byline has appeared worldwide in print and online. A certified Health Information Management professional, she is a member of Get Help Israel. Certified in Spiritual Chaplaincy (End of Life issues) and in counseling skills, her life coaching for ill people puts a healthy perspective into a clients’ success plan for achieving desired goals.