“Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest”.1 This is how depression is being described on the internet. But is it really that simple?
Against common belief depression is way more complex. Trying to describe it with only one sentence is almost impossible. Especially when you consider that there are a lot of different types of depression. One of them being hidden depression, sometimes also called high functioning depression or smiling depression. This is what hidden depression can feel like:
“Depression is a weird thing. You can have the worst days or weeks in a row and then suddenly the next day you feel greater than ever and don’t even know how you could feel so depressed the previous day. That’s a whole cycle, a vicious cycle”.
What is hidden depression?
After talking to Katerina Makri, a psychologist from Larissa, I found out that depression isn’t always obvious. Some people who are affected by it manage to hide their depression very well and make their life seem pretty normal or even very successful to others. This phenomenon is called hidden depression or “smiling depression”. Someone with this kind of depression may seem happy, content and productive. But surrounded by people or not, they are constantly having a battle with themselves in their mind. That’s why the people who are surrounding the person are not able to detect the problem. Furthermore, depression has been linked to short term memory loss. However, it may be reversible with treatment.
“Just imagine feeling numb from the moment you wake up to the moment you are going to sleep every day. This is what depression can feel like”.
Often people who suffer from hidden depression don’t realise it themselves. Only after the confrontation of relatives or friends they do notice. In a lot of cases the thoughts of having depression are being eliminated and suppressed. Acceptance of the illness is the key in many cases. Still, it is important to consider that everyone is unique and experiences their hidden depression in a different way.
How to notice that someone has hidden depression?
It is extremely hard to notice someone’s hidden depression. Still, it is important to look out for any behaviour changes, because it’s not impossible. An extrovert person starting to act more like an introvert or the other way around could for example be a sign of hidden depression. Other signs could be changes in the diet, in sleeping habits, in self-perception or of the weight. Nevertheless, any of these signs must not necessarily mean that someone has hidden depression. It can be helpful to raise the topic in case you are concerned for someone’s well-being, however not to label straightaway. Give them the opportunity and space to do it themselves.
How can hidden depression be treated?
“One 2017 study suggested that the longer depression remains undiagnosed and untreated, the worse symptoms become and the harder they are to treat”.2 This is why hidden depression needs to be treated as any other kind of depression. The first step to get better is the acceptance of the fact that something is not the way it should be. Next steps could be therapy or therapy in combination with medication. The role of the medication in this case is to make the person ready for the therapy treatment. Without treatment hidden depression can even lead to suicide.
“DEPRESSION NEVER REALLY LEAVES YOU.”
Affecting worldwide 5% of adults, depression always stays in their lives, but with the right treatment it gets easier for them to deal with it.
What are the taboos around psychotherapy?
There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health and psychotherapy. People in treatment are often perceived as psychopaths or sick. Not only in Greece, but also in all the other European countries this stigma exists. To overcome it is very hard. Some sufferers are afraid of the fact that their mental illness is not treatable. “But experts estimate that one in four people have treatable mental or emotional difficulties, but up to 75% of Americans and Europeans don’t seek the help they need”.3
Why do people feel the need to hide their depression?
This question has to be answered very individually. Some of the reasons to hide depression are for example being afraid of being judged, of the fact that their illness is not treatable or of the consequences and change. Other reasons could be the feeling of having everything under control or the feeling to be a burden or an embarrassment. Of course other reasons exist as well.
To put it in a nutshell, depression doesn’t have to be obvious. We never know what others go through. This is why it’s so important to be aware of this topic. Without proper treatment the symptoms can get worse and even lead to suicide.
Be cautious and don’t forget to check on your friends from time to time. Also, stay tuned to find out more about mental health and depression during our mental health week. We will post more content, including a video on hidden depression, within the next couple of days!