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Looking Behind the Smile Understanding Hidden Depression

Looking Behind the Smile: Understanding Hidden Depression

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Think depression is an obvious disorder? Think again. There are many reasons why people will try to cover up their depression, and you may know someone who is hiding a tremendous amount of pain behind a sunny exterior. Knowing how to spot the signs is an important step in helping them get the treatment they need.

You’ve got a sense that something isn’t right with someone you love. While they’re still going out with friends, and chatting with you about their day, they’re also sleeping much more than usual, or unable to sleep much at all. They complain about frequent headaches and backaches that don’t have a clear cause. They might be drinking more alcohol than usual, or be unusually forgetful or distracted. But when you ask how they’re doing, they smile and tell you that things are good, and turn the conversation back to you. 

While some people who struggle with depression will show obvious signs like persistent sadness, frequent bouts of crying or despair, and increasing social isolation, others will hide it, resulting in a condition known as hidden or smiling depression. Understanding why people hide their depression, and how to recognise these subtle signs can help you get your loved one the assistance they need.

Why Do People Hide Their Depression?

1. They don’t want to be a burden

A key reason that people try to keep their depression to themselves is due to a perception that sharing their struggles will unnecessarily burden those they love. These feelings may be linked to low self-esteem, or a habit of taking care of others while ignoring one’s own needs or feelings. These people decide that their feelings are best managed by themselves, and that involving others would only make those people feel stressed or worried. 

2. They are untrusting of how they will be treated by a doctor

A lack of trust around how a doctor will react when someone discloses details about their conditions can arise from a variety of factors. Some may have experienced discrimination by medical professionals in the past, while others may be concerned about being asked to take medications that they are not comfortable with. These are valid and serious concerns that should be taken into consideration when seeking professional care.

3. They’re ashamed of their depression.

Though social stigma around mental health is being challenged in many places, some people may still feel that their depression is a sign of weakness, and worry that others may judge them for it. They may have confided in someone about their feelings in the past and been told to “remember what they do have,” or to “toughen up.” This shame about their feelings can cause them to try and cover it up.

4. They are in denial.

It’s possible that the person doesn’t realise that they’re depressed. A deep fear of confronting whatever is causing the depression can result in emotional detachment and suppression of feelings. While people might feel numb, empty, or off, they may not link it to depression.

5. They feel guilty.

“I’ve got it all, so why would I ever be depressed?” For people whose lives look wonderful from the outside, this is likely a major question running through their heads – and a potential source of guilt. Even though depression is linked to many factors, and can affect people from any background and in any situation, some may believe that their lives are “too good” to be depressed, and feel guilty about not being happy.

What are Signs of Hidden Depression?

With hidden depression, you may not see the more classic symptoms of depression, but there are generally some signs that you can recognise. These include things like:

  • Changes in appetite resulting in noticeable weight loss or weight gain
  • Changes in sleeping habits, including bouts of insomnia, or oversleeping
  • Grumpiness, irritability, or heightened emotional sensitivity
  • Unexplained aches or pains
  • Loss of interest in or less enjoyment of activities
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things 
  • Lack of energy, fatigue
  • Changes in substance use
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless 

It’s likely that these signs will be alongside behaviours or activities that seem normal. People with hidden depression are often doing well at work, have an active social life, and will laugh and smile with others. When they arrive home, or are finally alone, this demeanor will typically change and be more reflective of what’s going on inside. 

Spotting these signs requires you to look more carefully at the whole picture, and compare the patterns you’re seeing now to what you’ve seen from this person in the past. Have you noticed changes in their personality? Are topics of conversation darker or more serious than they used to be? Are they more negative about themselves, even in a joking way? Considering these things can help you recognise if depression may be at the root of what’s going on with your loved one.

What Groups May Be More Prone to Hidden Depression?

Anyone can struggle with hidden depression, but there are certain groups that may be more likely to try and cover up their symptoms, or be unaware of them. These groups include:

  • Children and teenagers
  • Older adults
  • People with chronic illness
  • People recovering from trauma
  • People from underserved or marginalised communities
  • Men

If your loved one is from one of these groups, there is a higher likelihood that their depression will be undiagnosed or undertreated, and so additional vigilance around their care may be helpful in getting them the treatment they need.

How is Hidden Depression Treated?

Hidden depression is treated in the same way as major depression disorder, which often involves a combination of therapy, the development of healthy coping mechanisms, and sometimes medication. Common treatment options for depression include things like:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

This popular and effective form of talk therapy involves exploring the root causes of your depression, as well as negative patterns of thought which reinforce it. Together with a therapist, you analyse and challenge this way of thinking, while learning and practising new ways to direct your thoughts. CBT helps you develop a better understanding of your condition, and strengthens your ability to manage and cope with symptoms when they arise.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

A new, non-invasive option for people with treatment-resistant depression, transcranial magnetic stimulation is an FDA-approved technology that uses magnetic waves to gently stimulate areas of the brain linked to mood.

Establishing Healthy Habits

Wellness practices like exercise, mindfulness meditation, and yoga have been proven to boost mood and relieve symptoms of depression. Additionally, eating a balanced diet and practicing good sleep hygiene are key to building a strong foundation for better mental health. Depression treatment will help you learn how to integrate these practices into your daily routines. 

Taking a Depression Retreat at The Dawn

Taking a Depression Retreat at The Dawn

The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab Thailand is a unique inpatient treatment centre for people looking to overcome challenges associated with mental health and addiction issues. Specialising in depression treatment and staffed by an internationally-trained group of compassionate professionals, The Dawn works closely with each client to develop a personalised treatment plan designed to make clients feel better almost immediately, uncover the root causes of their depression, and learn coping skills to manage and mitigate their symptoms.

Why Choose Depression Treatment in Thailand?

Located on a serene riverside amidst lush gardens, The Dawn is a resort-like oasis of healing far away from the stressors and triggers of home. Just an hour’s flight from the capital city Bangkok, clients feel an immediate sense of peace when they arrive, and have access to a round-the-clock support system available whenever they need it. 

We offer a diverse array of treatments all under one roof, including a variety of psychotherapies and wellness practices like yoga, mindfulness meditation, fitness training, Thai massage, swimming, and more. The Dawn is also the only residential treatment centre in Asia offering transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Call us today to learn more about how we can help your loved one overcome their depression and live a happier, more fulfilled life.

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