Dual Diagnosis

Hidden Depression Symptoms: Looking Behind the Smile

Hidden Depression Symptoms: Looking Behind the Smile

Depression isn’t always obvious. Hidden depression is just as disruptive as depression out in the open. Learn how to recognize it in our blog!

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Dual Diagnosis

November 21, 2022

The more commonly understood depression symptoms range from trouble concentrating to the inability to make quick, simple decisions. Most people assume that a depressed person is most likely to act aloof and socially withdrawn, with easy-to-identify signs such as looking unhappy. However, depression is not that simple to understand.

It is a complex mental health challenge that might often show up in the most concealed form. The sufferer might look like any other person but might be suffering from extreme guilt without a cause. Similarly, some symptoms of depression are hard to identify, such as unexplained pains or body aches that come about without any clear diagnosis and cannot be controlled with over-the-counter medications.

Mental Health America reports that over 1 in 10 youth in the US are experiencing depression that is severely impairing their ability to function at school or work, at home, with family, or in their social life

Concealed depression might arise in the form of digestive issues where the person might lose weight due to poor digestive health brought about by chronic depression. This is why people must know more about the common and hidden depression symptoms.

Read ahead to understand what concealed or hidden depression symptoms look like…

Things that Usually Make People Mask Their Depression

The WHO estimates that nearly 264 million individuals across the world suffer from some form of depression. However, all types of depression are not easy to identify. Sometimes, the sufferer tries to hide to mask the symptoms. This form of "hidden depression" becomes very hard to identify despite being surrounded by family and friends. Some healthcare professionals use the term "smiling depression" when the inner sadness is masked by an external appearance that seems somewhat normal.

The symptoms of "concealed depression" might differ slightly from the conventionally understood symptoms of depression. The person might perform well at work and in social gatherings. However, in their minds, such folks often deal with the more common depression symptoms.

Some people intentionally disguise their symptoms to avoid engaging attention at school or the workplace. Many don't want their loved ones to worry about their condition. There is also a problem of perfectionism. This happens when people mask signs of depression because being clinically diagnosed might make them look weak or desperate. Many people tend to hide their depressive condition because they associate guilt and shame with being labeled someone needing help. This can make the identification and timely treatment of depression very difficult.

Just consider the case of postpartum depression symptoms that are more commonly known as compared to clinical depression symptoms such as suicidal thoughts that are hard to identify unless the person seeks help and is ready to talk about the problem.

Subtle Changes that Are Hard to Spot at the Outset

It has been seen that depressed individuals often show a gradual pattern where there is a change in the topics of their conversations and the choice of words that make up their conversational vocabulary. Someone concealing his depression is more likely to be more introspective. They show a higher incidence of using egocentric terms and directing the conversation at themselves. This is a rather tricky symptom of depression to identify. The individual suffering might be undergoing changes in the cognitive processes, and this can bring a newer outlook on life but often, this can be too introspective and pessimistic.

People with depression tend to see things around them less optimistically. Such folks can be irritating to others, and more prone to making defeatist statements. For the attentive, these can be signs of depression, but for most people, it can be a turn-off. Though not a hint of depression right away, the person might have a misguided sense of guilt, and often the conversations might start going philosophical, often bringing up topics like the afterlife. While mild depression symptoms like emotional eating and over-indulging in sweet treats are slightly easier to spot, such subtle changes in a person's behavior are very hard to spot.

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Psychological Numbness that Can Be Difficult to Define

Depression can bring about a lot more than just negative emotions. The affected person might develop an unusual feeling of emptiness, accompanied by a sense of melancholy. This type of mental numbness is a subtle but uncommon symptom of depression. The person might seem unaffected by the things happening around them, including celebrations or moments of grief and sorrow, seeming unreactive to incidents that would otherwise bring about a reaction. This state of mind might be accompanied by anhedonia–a medical term for extreme lack of interest and the inability to derive enjoyment from activities that most people would find delightful. The other extreme of being numb to regular situations that we witness in everyday lives, a depressed individual might be unusually emotive.

For instance, someone might excessively empathize with the injury or pain of others. Sometimes, this can happen at crippling levels, bringing about a heightened state of anxiety despite the absence of any real trigger. Such folks can be quick to think about the worst-case scenarios, quickly latching on to discussions about despair or doom.

Putting on a Face: Seldom Understood as Depression Symptom

Smiling depression or happy depression brings together two extremes. The person's internal sense of despair is not proportional to the smile that a person carried about to look normal. This is perhaps why the term "toxic positivity" has been trending recently. Typically, people put on a happy face. This can happen literally, in terms of walking about with a smile at the office despite the internal turmoil that a depressed person goes through. Other forms of this hidden depression symptom can show up in the form of happy-looking Instagram highlights. Such people are likely to be very uncomfortable talking about issues related to mental health. They might even be in denial about their feelings.

This is where the role of family or friends becomes important as they are most likely to spot if someone is putting up appearances for hiding signs of depression. In contrast, severe depression symptoms like the inability to continue working or attending school or trying recreational drugs to experience happiness are slightly easier to spot.

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Not the Usual Type of Insomnia but Indifferent Sleeping Patterns

Not to be confused with seasonal depression symptoms, sleeping patterns can change among the depressed in many ways. This is not just about finding it harder to fall asleep but feeling sleepy through the duration of the day and still, unable to sleep during the usual, night hours. Repeated changes in sleep schedules to address this problem can further complicate the issue. It can cause the energy levels to swing widely making a person less attentive at times when maximum concentration is needed at the workplace or school. Such sleep patterns can be a concealed sign of depression.

Some healthcare specialists explain it as a problem that stems from trying to hide emotions. When this goes unchecked for a long time, fatigue can set in. This can make the person lose motivation at work, lowering productivity levels. Not to be confused with insomnia, this state of depressed mind can continue for a long time and can impact the behavior, making the person more irritable and short-tempered.

While significant depression symptoms, like a tendency to cry out without reason or being persistently sad, are easier to diagnose, these altered sleep patterns are harder to trace as depression-related symptoms. Sometimes, too many variations in sleep patterns can cause extreme fatigue, making the entire diagnosis even more challenging. Here, depression and unusual sleep patterns go hand-in-hand, and it becomes difficult to assess what is causing day-long tiredness.

While anxiety-depression symptoms have been clearly linked with poor digestive health, it is hard to clearly diagnose the alterations in appetite and more serious digestion-related issues like losing weight. Concealed depression can bring about unusual changes in the BMI or body mass index. Depression can take a toll on digestive health, causing indigestion despite maintaining dietary control. The person might also complain about nausea, cramps, bloating, or pain in the stomach.

If left untreated for a longer duration, the condition can impair the functioning of the digestive tract more chronically. Inflammation in various organs that make up the digestive system can be caused by long-term depression. This is in stark contrast to depression symptoms in women such as eating excessively during postpartum depression which is better understood. Continuing problems in digestion can bring about weight loss which in turn, can make the individual obsess even more about physical appearance, raising anxiety levels, which might worsen the intensity of depressive symptoms too.

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Self-Medicating for Hidden Depression: Turning to Alcohol or Substances that Bring a Sense of Relief

Among people who regularly consume alcohol, this sign of depression might be harder to notice, but among folks with limited alcohol consumption, an increasing tendency to seek solace in a can of beer can indicate an increasingly depressed mind. Alcohol is known to create a happy feeling. Further, it has a calming effect on the mind. Acting like a painkiller and an easy means to let go of some stress, it mimics the role of neurotransmitters released into the brain when we eat chocolates or have sex, i.e., alcohol elevates the overall mood. This can be a slow progress toward alcohol addiction.

If you have noticed yourself or your friend making too many trips to the bar during happy hours lately, it might be just a way to deal with underlying depression rather than talk about it. This form of self-medication can soon pave the way to binge drinking, which is regarded as perhaps an easy-to-identify cause of depression. This is a more dangerous type of hidden depression as it raises the risk of fatal or near-fatal experiences due to drinking heavily.

Lesser-Known Hidden Depression Symptom: Abandonment Anxiety

People suffering from hidden symptoms of depression might have a lot of charisma. Such people might be great managers at their workplace and look like they handle their family duties perfectly. It is only a bit of probing by an experienced caregiver that can reveal their battle with trying to look normal. Despite the seemingly superior performance at home and away, the depressed person might have crippling fears, like the fear of abandonment–often referred to as abandonment anxiety. This is typically seen among people who have lost a family member and could never fully recover from the devastating incident. More likely to keep their emotions bottled up, such folks have very poor coping mechanisms when they face the slightest rejections.

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Would you like more information about the hidden symptoms of depression? Reach out today.

Understanding What Makes Young Adults More Vulnerable to Hidden Depression

While depression symptoms in teens are well documented, much less has been discussed about how people in their early 20s suffer from hidden depression. Life can seem very tough for young adults who are just taking the first steps toward adulthood. Here, typical situations that can bring about more concealed forms of depression include:

  • Creating new social circles

  • Exploring sexual relationships

  • Managing personal finances

  • Making the right career choices

  • Choosing education over the lure of making some quick money

  • Assuming the responsibility of being a caregiver for a senior in the family

If you find someone suffering silently from depression, try to extend some help. Your empathy can really help and if possible, try to route the person towards seeking expert care. There are mental health counselors and rehabilitation centers that can help those suffering from different types of depression, no matter how chronic or serious.

The Edge Treatment Center Can Help Treat Your Hidden Depression

The Edge Treatment Center is among the leading addiction treatment centers in the nation, constantly improving its multiple drug addiction rehabilitation programs with an emphasis on raising the quality of care for the addicted and support for their families. This means more support for single/standalone addictions or cases of dual/multiple addictions and typical situations where the addiction comes with diagnosed mental health disorders or mental health issues like depression.

Depression is a gateway to substance abuse and worse. Talk to The Edge Treatment Center today and start building a happier life.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.