Depression is a powerful mental health condition, and it can often go undiagnosed for long periods of time. Millions of people around the world are living with concealed depression right this minute. It could be a close friend of yours or even a family member who appears to be perfectly fine. Sometimes even depression sufferers themselves don’t realize that they are living with the condition.
More often than not, it boils down to living in denial about being depressed, and hiding it is just a way of keeping that “abnormal” side of themselves separate from their day-to-day. It’s not easy being singled out as that “sad person” who needs professional help and maybe even medication. Depression has a social stigma and a negative connotation attached to it, so it’s really no surprise why people would want to live their lives without telling anyone about it. But for someone who doesn’t have depression, it may seem confusing why someone can’t just open up and ask for the help they need.
Why people hide their depression
There are many reasons someone would rather keep their depression a secret. It could affect their relationships, their job, their family, and even the way they see themselves. It’s not uncommon for a depressed individual to be afraid to share their experience with others. They may be afraid of being a “burden.” They don’t want to appear “weak” in front their friends and family, or in the eyes of society. They’re “sure” that no one would understand them if they opened up (which is untrue, therapists usually have personal experience and can relate). Sometimes it even comes down to simply wanting to escape from the inevitable therapy, drawn-out talks with family members about their depression, and possible questioning over the authenticity of their problem.
Whatever the reason that you or someone in your life may be concealing their depression, it’s helpful and important to know some of the signs that someone might secretly be living with the condition. Not everyone with depression exhibits these signs, and these signs don’t automatically mean someone has depression, but being aware of them is a good start. This knowledge will make you better equipped to spot the warning signs, provide support, and help them get help. And it just might help you realize a few things about yourself and your own emotions as well.
5 habits of people living with concealed depression
1. Specific coping habits or rituals
In addition to therapy and medication, certain habits, like getting regular exercise or a healthy amount of sleep, can help to improve a person’s depressive symptoms. A person with depression may have a series of go-to healthy habits for when their symptoms get especially tough. Look for that one activity they seem to always do when they have a particularly bad day, or what they can’t live without doing.
2. Potentially unhealthy relationship with food and/or sleep
For some depression sufferers, a telltale sign of what they’re going through is sleeping too much or too little. This is sometimes overlooked because it doesn’t seem very noticeable at first, but sleep patterns can make a huge difference. If you know someone who is always napping at odd times of the day (these are actually known as “depression naps”) or gets up very late in the day for no real reason, there is a chance they’re not okay. Sleeping is one way depression can’t affect you. It’s a sort of escape from the reality of being depressed, so it makes sense to want to stay asleep for as long as possible.
Eating too much or too little is also a telltale sign. If you know someone who’s eating pattern has changed drastically, then there’s likely a real reason behind it. Eating too much is a way of using food as comfort when things aren’t going too well. Whereas undereating is a sign that there is a lack of motivation for self-care. Depression makes it harder for people to complete simple tasks, like getting up from bed, taking a shower, and eating.
3. Increased isolation
It’s not unusual for someone not to feel up for certain activities. Everyone wants to spend the day inside once in a while. But with depression, it becomes increasingly difficult to put in the effort and venture out. They may start to attend social reunions less often, reply to invitations slower, and sometimes stop replying to conversations altogether. Take note when a friend slowly begins to disappear from their usual social scenes. They may have concealed depression and are gradually isolating themselves from everyone to keep it hidden.
4. Subtle cries for help
Many people living with concealed depression may be longing to reach out for help, but struggling to do so. They may share a “casual” cry for help or talk about it as if they are joking. Just to see how others react and in an attempt to be heard. Often, people will take back what they said later and downplay it to hide their feelings. It’s important to take note of signs like these, as they are often legitimate cries for help.
5. Excessively upbeat and always laughing
Like Robin Williams and many other successful people who have lived with concealed depression, they were publicly very optimistic and fun to be around. Many people who feel miserable on the inside feel like they need to work in overdrive to convince others that they are actually happy. They may go out of their way to tell you how good they’re feeling or to appear cheerful. Of course, depression is more than one mood—someone may genuinely be feeling good in one moment but still be suffering from depression. Smiles and perceived happiness do not mean that someone isn’t suffering on the inside.
If any or all of these make you think of someone in particular, they may be living with concealed depression and in need of help. There’s no need to prepare a list of “why they have no reason to be depressed.” Simply reach out and be prepared to listen.
Let them know that even though you may not understand what they’re going through, you will always be there to hear them out and support them. Sometimes knowing you’re there for them is all they need to get the courage to seek real help. Offer to accompany them to a doctor for a proper diagnosis. If they’re already on medication or prefer a different approach to what they’ve already tried, suggest a different way they can cope with depression.