Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health issues have increased by 25%, according to the World Health Organization. The loss of family and friends to COVID, the restrictions on usual social interactions, economic uncertainty, and the additional stress of maintaining businesses and employment are some of the reasons for the increase.   Additionally, there has been an increase in alcohol and other drug use, which is both a consequence and contributing factor to mental health problems including smiling depression.

Because mental health issues continue to carry a negative stigma, problems with our mental health are usually difficult to discuss.  Therefore, while many people reach out to a professional for help, others mask their symptoms and try to manage them on their own while convincing others that nothing is wrong.  Professionals refer to this situation as “smiling depression.”  It occurs when someone is struggling with mental illness but is hiding their misery behind a smile.  Obviously, smiling depression can be deceptive since the individual seems mostly normal — happy even — on the outside, but are actually struggling within. 

In this blog, we help you identify the symptoms of smiling depression and discuss the importance of seeking treatment.

Symptoms of Smiling Depression

Identifying symptoms of depression can be tricky even in those we know well, but is especially tricky if we don’t know a person well or only interact with them in a professional situation, for example.  However, for most people suffering from poor mental health, there are signs beyond the expression on their faces.  Here’s what you can look out for when looking for smiling depression.

Loss of usual interests

Most people suffering emotionally lose interest in the things that used to bring them joy.  This can manifest by becoming withdrawn from friends and family and social activities, procrastination, poor hygiene, calling in sick to work more often, and making excuses to miss activities they once enjoyed.

Changes in appetite

When struggling emotionally, some people may have less of an appetite and lose weight while others may experience the opposite. If you notice a change in the way a friend or family member is eating or a change in their weight that isn’t intentional, it might indicate they are struggling beneath their smile.

Feeling hopeless

Mental illness often makes us feel hopeless and disinterested in the future since it seems life will never be satisfying again.  Some people may even experience unnecessary guilt or feelings of worthlessness. This may manifest in a loss of interest in long-term goals, such as poor grades or dropping out of school, not working to build their careers or business, or not putting effort into their relationships.

While this symptom can be hard to detect, it is particularly concerning because it can lead to a person making decisions with unfortunate, long-term consequences, including suicide.  

Changes in sleep

Mental illness very often disturbs our sleep, which in turn can worsen our mental health. One of the more commonly complained of disturbances is the ability to fall asleep normally but then awakening in the early morning hours and being unable to fall back to sleep, often due to ruminating thoughts and worries keeping us alert.  This contributes to difficulty getting out of bed or needing a nap during the daytime, which can also worsen our ability to sleep at night. 

Treatment for Smiling Depression

Though it can be hard to identify, the treatment for “smiling depression” is similar to traditional depression and can be very effective.  Treatment might include talk therapy, medications, and changes to your lifestyle such as a better diet and more exercise. However, we cannot be treated until our symptoms have been identified and brought to the attention of a professional.  And while mental health issues can be difficult to discuss, approaching someone with genuine concern can be the stimulus they need in order to seek help.  In fact, they might not have considered how much their symptoms are apparent and affecting their lives.

So, if you identify any of the symptoms of smiling depression in a loved one, or if you are hiding your emotional struggles behind a smile, reach out to a professional.  Treatment for mental illness is effective and nobody should have to live in misery.

CapRock Health is here to help

If you suspect you or a loved one of having smiling depression, give us a call, and we’ll be happy to assist you.