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DepressionMood Disorders

How to Recognize and Help Someone with Hidden Depression

By October 6, 2021No Comments

Depression isn’t always obvious. In fact, some people go to great lengths to hide the symptoms of depression from the people around them — concealing the problem so well that they themselves may scarcely recognize it.

This is why hidden depression is sometimes called “smiling” depression. Someone with hidden depression may seem content, happy, and productive. Their work life and relationships, from all outward appearances, seem fine.

But inwardly, in quiet spaces that aren’t easily shared, depression symptoms are affecting their thoughts, feelings, and physical health. And those symptoms aren’t going away.

Becoming aware of how depression symptoms vary is important. Undiagnosed and untreated depression can get better if people get help. Learn more about how it’s diagnosed and treated.

Classic vs. atypical symptoms of depression

One reason it can be hard to recognize hidden depression is that symptoms vary so widely from person to person. You may already be familiar with the better-known symptoms of depression:

  • sadness that persists longer than 2 weeks
  • frequent crying
  • a big drop in self-esteem
  • losing interest in things that were once important

But other symptoms may be harder to recognize as depression, including symptoms like these:

  • physical pain or gastrointestinal problems not linked to another health condition
  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • weight gain, weight loss, or changes in appetite
  • changes in substance use
  • irritability, grumpiness, or extra-sensitivity
  • feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • problems with attention, concentration, or memory
  • loss of interest in sex

One way to determine whether someone has depression is to look at how long someone has had symptoms. Generally, symptoms that don’t go away within 2 weeks should probably be discussed with a trusted healthcare professional.

Here’s more perspective on high functioning depression.

What hidden depression can look like

It’s important to watch for any changes in behavior. When people have depression, they may begin to act differently than they used to act, even if they’re not acting sad or listless.

One or two changes on their own don’t necessarily signal that someone is hiding depression, but several that occur around the same time may be cause for concern.

When someone is experiencing symptoms of depression but not talking about it, attentive people around them might notice these kinds of changes:

Personality differences

Changes in personality may be a sign of hidden depression. Someone living with hidden depression might, for example, become quieter if they were once outgoing, or more pessimistic when they used to have confidence about the future.

Losing or gaining significant amounts of weight

Suddenly changing their eating habits — showing no interest in eating or eating in response to emotional situations may be a sign of hidden depression.

Changes in substance use

Changes in drinking or substance use patterns that interfere with your everyday life may be a sign of hidden depression.

Changes in sleeping habits

Sleeping much later each day or for longer than usual, or staying awake at unusual hours, can all be signs of depression.

Becoming more serious

If someone is living with hidden depression, they may begin initiating or having conversations that are deeper, darker, or more philosophical than usual.

Differences in social interactions

Signs of depression may include someone becoming the “life of the party” in ways that don’t seem genuine. They might also start withdrawing from social activities, giving frequent excuses for why they aren’t engaging with friends and family as much can be signs of depression.

Productivity differences

Either devoting a lot of extra time to work or seeing a decline in performance can both indicate depression.

Abandoning hobbies or causes that once mattered

An individual with hidden depression may give up on things that were once very important to them, or they may start participating in half-hearted ways.

Negative self-talk

A person may say negative things in a joking manner to deflect attention away from their underlying pain. There may be an increase in risk-taking behaviors, especially in adolescents. This may be an attempt to counteract numbness or inflict self-harm.

Who’s vulnerable to hidden depression?

Anyone can hide depression symptoms, especially if they feel there’s something to lose in talking about it. But some groups of people may be more likely than others to conceal depression or be unaware that depression is affecting them.

Research shows that depression can be hidden, underdiagnosed, and under-treated in these groups of people:

  • older adults
  • children and teens
  • men
  • people with chronic illnesses
  • people recovering from traumatic experiences
  • people from marginalized or underserved communities

Read the rest of this informative article on Healthline here.

If you are suffering from any types of Depression, please see our information on Treatment for Depression in NYC.

Barry J. Richman

Author Barry J. Richman

More posts by Barry J. Richman

Barry J. Richman MD Psychiatrist NY

Manhattan, NYC Psychiatrist
(212) 889-5463