Smiling depression or high-functioning depression is one of the trickiest mental health conditions to identify and diagnose. As such, it’s a silent killer that can have a profound effect because assistance may never be sought.

Many people have gotten good enough at hiding their depression for personal or professional reasons. Research shows these individuals are at a particularly high risk of suicide because they’re dealing with the effects of depression on their own.

What Is Smiling Depression?

Smiling depression isn’t a clinical diagnosis but rather a term used to describe people who mask the symptoms of their condition for one reason or another.

As a result, loved ones and close individual may believe that someone with depression is perfectly happy and healthy (hence the name).

Typically, depression is linked to lethargy, sadness and feelings of despair. When these remain on the inside, however, the depression will unfold and present itself without alarming anyone. People like Jim Carrey, Ellen DeGeneres and even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have battled depression without anyone knowing what’s going on.

According to research, nearly 40 per cent of all depression sufferers are exhibit smiling depression. They quickly brush concerns away with a smile, telling everyone they’re fine. Eventually, the family will be convinced enough to give up and even start believing they were wrong to feel worried.

Does It Have at Least Some Symptoms?

While smiling depression is tricky and secretive, there are still some tell-tale signs. If you know someone very well, you’ll be capable of spotting subtle changes that may be indicative of a mental health problem that’s serious in nature.

Changes in appetite are very common among people with depression and they’re easy to spot. Some depression sufferers will overeat habitually. Others will lose their appetite and even stop consuming favourite foods.

Altered sleep patterns and insomnia are also typical.

Depression sufferers also feel drained just from their own everyday existence. They have to mobilise themselves and work really hard to keep up with responsibilities and function normally regardless of the condition. They may have to put serious effort in getting out of bed in the morning and “play” a role of happiness. Because of these exhaustion, self-care and personal hygiene may go out the window simply because participating in such routines becomes way too taxing.

People who have smiling depression could also indicate no distress about eventually passing away. This is known as passive suicidal ideation. They’re not actively planning to commit suicide but they don’t feel bad about eventually losing their lives in an event like a car accident, for example.

In people with smiling depression, these symptoms are going to be very subtle and difficult to spot. With time, a person may become even better at hiding the wreckage and the devastating manner in which depression is affecting their everyday existence.

Smiling depression sufferers are high functioning. They will not abandon their responsibilities, no matter what it takes to reach a favourable outcome. High-functioning depression sufferers will hold a job and they’ll often engage in social activities with family and friends. They may be funny, even appearing optimistic. The impact of the depression is more likely to be felt behind closed doors when these people may eventually let their guard down.

Who’s at Risk?

The answer is simple – everyone.

Smiling depression can be triggered by a situation, a life event or genetic predisposition.

Smiling depression, however, tends to be more common among people belonging to families or societies that stigmatise mental illness. Because of their upbringing or background, these people probably experience shame and embarrassment. They prefer to hide what’s going on instead of seeking treatment.

In essence, people who feel they’re going to be judged instead of helped will do their best to manage on their own.

Smiling Depression: Diagnosis and Treatment

Individuals with smiling depression often go untreated until the condition progresses. In that instance, they’ll either stop functioning effectively or they’ll start contemplating suicide. Diagnosis before this point is reached may be possible if the high-functioning depression sufferer comes to terms with their condition.

Obviously, overcoming the fear of embarrassment and stigma is essential to seek treatment. Loved ones who act in a non-judgmental way will play a vital role in this process.

Smiling depression is diagnosed just like any other mental health problem – by seeing an experienced psychiatrist in Singapore.

A mental healthcare professional will ask some important questions that will point at trends and the hidden expressions of the condition.

Eventually, a person with smiling depression may be diagnosed with clinical depression that has atypical expression. Receiving the diagnosis is a good thing because clinical depression, whether high-functioning or not, can be treated.

If you think someone may be dealing with smiling depression or you’re concerned about your own wellbeing, go and see a mental health professional. Emotional support and having a strong social network both play a vital role in beating the condition. A warm environment, combined with the right therapeutic approach, will contribute to steady and sustained improvements.

A loved one who refuses to see a therapist will be a challenge. In such instances, go and talk to a professional yourself. You will get a better idea about what’s going on and how you could offer assistance.

Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic specialises in the treatment of depression. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and schedule an appointment to explore the possible therapeutic approaches and the ways in which smiling depression can be combatted.